Point of care used to be an easy thing to define. Traditionally, it’s thought of as the place where a healthcare professional delivers services and/or products to a patient: the doctor’s office, the hospital room, the ER. These environments have a reputation of being clinical and cold, but as patient experience becomes more of a choice-driver—and potential influencer of outcomes—health brands are attempting to make traditional points of care more welcoming and warm. However, these places are not always within easy reach of those who need them most. Therefore, the definition of “point of care” is broadening to address populations without access to health services, or to get even closer to those who seek new kinds of care.
Industry and consumer trends are aiding in this shift and new businesses within the broader landscape of healthcare are emerging. Telehealth is becoming fairly standard; there are more than 165,000 health and wellness apps available and 1 in 6 consumers owns and uses wearable technology: Think about Bellabeat around your neck, HUM in your basket at Sephora, Pager on your smartphone, CityMD on your corner. As technology advances and our appetite for on-demand grows, point of care can be anywhere.
New definitions of health
The traditional belief is that health means not being sick, and “sick” is the only time you seek care. In fact, only 29 percent of millennials define health this way. For millennials and Gen Z members, health has a much more holistic meaning that accounts for all things that affect us physically, including stress levels, sleep quality, fitness levels, diet, mental health, and even spiritual fulfillment. As the definition of health has broadened, it’s opened the door for myriad wellness brands that cross categories. Content-led brands like Thrive, Well + Good, and mindbodygreen are making it a mission to educate people about the connections between lifestyle and health. Other brands interact with our very biology: HumanCharger, Illumy, and Thync. While others give us insight—and control—of how our own bodies work with apps that address everything from menstruation (Clue) to nutrition (Noom). Understanding that so many facets of life affect health, these brands are bringing care into new spaces—like your pocket, your wrist, or even in your bed.
The tech effect
Technology— both access to it and advances—has played an enormous role in democratizing access to healthcare. A median of 84% of people in emerging and developing nations own a cell phone. This proliferation of access to electronics along with information on the Internet has dramatically shifted how consumers learn about health and healthcare—and where they receive it. Some exciting brands like babylon and Achu are capitalizing on this and helping people get care, even if a doctor can’t be present. Other brands like Flatiron Health and Quartet Health are enhancing data sharing capabilities to improve care and make sure patients don’t slip through the cracks when away from their HCP. In the very near future, advances in DNA technology by companies like Helix will drive even deeper understanding of genetic implications on health and how we can best care for ourselves.
Connections driving care
It’s no secret that the millennial generation has had a tremendous impact on how brands craft experiences for consumers in a digital age. While Gen Z has strong concerns about privacy, the younger generations are still looking for ways to safely and seamlessly interact in the digital space. Despite this demographic’s desire to live online, there’s been a significant uptick in the value placed on authentic experiences and meaningful connections. Brands are leveraging this new connectivity to provide access to care: which sometimes means being informed to take the right action, or receiving support or encouragement. In a recent survey, 90 percent of respondents aged 18 to 24 said that they would trust medical information shared by others on their social media networks. Brands such as Patients Like Me and SmartPatients are tapping into this desire to network, share, and are bringing crucial information to the right people at the right time. By allowing consumers to share health data or join online communities with similar health challenges, patients are able to make more informed decisions or even to find the emotional support they need. Being connected means care can come in a variety of forms, and place becomes more fluid.
As healthcare innovation accelerates, definitions of point of care will continue to evolve. Our new, holistic view of health, coupled with rapid advancements in technology (and a little anxiety regarding the political status of healthcare), mean that consumers’ desire for access to both professional and personal care will continue to grow. How brands position themselves within this ecosystem and communicate their values can drive patient empowerment and potentially lead to better outcomes. Brands that offer deeper and better insights, will lead the next wave of breakthrough medical discoveries, all while improving our overall quality of life.