Over the last decade or so, personalization has become increasingly trendy and sought after by companies in almost every industry.
Everything from shampoo (see Prose), to daily supplements (see Ritual), to driving preferences (see Tesla), and more has been carefully marketed as a way to meet the unique needs of every individual. Healthcare is no different.
The Role and Benefits of Personalization in Healthcare
Personalization in healthcare refers to the process by which people receive health and wellbeing support that is tailored to their individual wants and needs and still aims to provide them with the best possible clinical outcome at the best possible price. There are myriad reasons personalization is beneficial for patients, providers, and self-insured employers alike, including:
For patients, personalization clarifies how to best decipher one’s personal health journey and increases awareness of and access to relevant and engaging solutions. For example, say a patient has been diagnosed with diabetes. As a result, a health navigation app that helps patients find care and resources may suggest a diabetes condition management program—like Livongo, Omada, or Virta—or a high-quality endocrinologist they can connect with. Recommendations will ideally be within the patient’s health insurance network and offer options that match their preferences for provider, location, and more.
For providers, personalization reduces the amount of time spent on administrative work and increases the provider’s understanding of and exposure to their patients and their patients’ health and wellbeing. For example, some health devices and wearables—like a blood glucose monitor— allow providers to track their patients not just in the clinic, but outside of the clinic as well (with the patient’s approval, of course). This means the provider has a better idea of the patient’s vitals and symptoms because they can see the data on a daily basis rather than only during appointments.
As if this isn’t reason enough to continue to incorporate personalization into healthcare, when patients are directed to services that target their most pressing health concerns—and when providers are equipped with more data on the patient—the self-insured employer can end up saving money, as well. Essentially, it’s a winning situation for all.
Developing and Deepening Patient Trust
While the above reasons are no doubt important, the ability for personalization to drive trust amongst patients and providers is one of the biggest—yet often underrated—benefits.
Personalization increases trust by delivering content that is relevant to the patient in a manner that works best for them. This helps patients get care and resources specific to their health needs at the right time. And when that happens, patients are more likely to feel that their individual needs are understood and valued—which, in turn, builds trust.
Ultimately, in order for healthcare to operate in the most efficient and effective manner, there needs to be a deep sense of trust between all involved—the patient, the self-insured employer, and the provider. By using technology to scale personalization, we can build a sense of trust that allows for behavioral shifts among patients, driving them to adopt healthy habits and choices, which results in better health and cost outcomes and creates a system that works for all parties.
The primary challenge healthcare faces when it comes to successful personalization is the fact that, unlike tech companies outside of the healthcare world, the problems being solved are far more complex than simpler quantifiers like satisfaction scores can illustrate. We can use satisfaction for feedback on specific components of healthcare—like the ease of using a digital health app or an interaction with a Care Guide—but the ultimate focus is positive clinical outcomes and cost savings, both of which are quite layered and nuanced.
Add to this the fact that the consumerization of healthcare (i.e., making healthcare more accessible and easier to participate in for all) has only recently begun to develop, and we can clearly see the industry is merely on the cusp of understanding what personalization in healthcare can fully amount to, making this a difficult—but exciting!—road to travel.