Is wearable tech an opportunity for pharma to be more caring?

Peita PaceyWith wearable tech set to burgeon Peita Pacey takes a look at the opportunities which are presenting themselves in the healthcare sector for brands.

In the olden days, you know like 5 years ago, when people felt ill or just not quite ourselves they went to the doctors. Nowadays their usual first point of call is to contact Dr Google, who is most likely helpful enough to diagnose them with a rare form of incurable cancer at which they run screaming from our screens into the waiting room of an actual doctor who rolls their eyes and prescribes us with some R&R.

Our human condition has people always seeking to find, to know, to understand, but if left unchecked well quite simply we can get a bit ahead of ourselves.

I’m as curious as the next gadget freak about my sleeping and hydration patterns. Yeah, I do want to know when I need to get up and walk around from my desk.

And if I could have a bracelet that simultaneously gave me lunchtime menu suggestions of what to eat based on my real time blood sugar and cholesterol stats, well I’d be placing a bid on Kickstarter for that piece of tech no questions asked! I can only imagine how the future of wearable tech is going to affect how I care for my body.

But what happens when people don’t need to see a doctor anymore? What happens when they can self-diagnose? Better yet, what happens when one of the myriad of devices we use can monitor and detect what’s happening in our body and advise us of what medication we should take and how we can make lifestyle changes that promote a healthier body?

What if a bracelet could tell me that a headache was coming, and prompt me to pop two Panadol quick smart to beat the pain? Or if it could tell me that there’s been an increase of flu in my local area, and my Vitamin C levels are looking a little depleted?

With 25 per cent of respondents in the Royal Philips Electronic Consumer Attitudes Toward Healthcare Technology 2012 survey stating that they used websites or technology as often as they visit the doctor and a further 25 per cent use it instead of visiting the doctor, it got me thinking about the ethics of such things.

It seems to me that the opportunity here is not just for tech companies, but also for pharmaceutical and healthcare companies. With a newly empowered consumer who is seeking more and more information, and who has already given permission for certain brands to have a role in their daily lives, combined with the trend towards holistic healthcare, should we not be looking at our communications plans differently in light of this?

Our consumer is inviting us in for conversations about their health and wellbeing and we should be chatting right back, showing our expertise, providing them with genuine and relevant guidance, which ultimately celebrates our customers’ health. There’s a delicate balance between pushing the brand/sales agenda and providing genuine and useful information for this empowered consumer, but the brands that get it right will ultimately win at shelf.

After all, our customer is looking to us to help get them back on their feet as quickly as possible, so they don’t miss a beat of the life that they want to live.

Peita Pacey is a senior strategist for OMD


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