Healthcare dimension — untapped potential

Forrester analyst Elizabeth Boehm just wrote last week about the Fifth Annual Healthcare Unbound Conference — her conclusion, that attendees are frustrated at the lack of market uptake on all of these cool new products, among them wearable diagnostic offerings (CardioNet). Her conclusion — the market for technology in, on, and around the body — that is ‘healthcare unbound’, is lagging its predicted potential (2004) of reaching $5 billion by 2010 and $34 billion by 2015.

She blames the lag in use of monitoring and intervening technologies on a few factors, including a US consumer culture that is uninterested in prevention and personal responsibility; the health care industry structure that has no mechanism to reimburse for prevention, the broader economic downturn, and lack of awareness. In fact, she quantifies lack of awareness from Forrester data that shows that 60% of consumers have never heard of in-home electronic pill dispensers, and 53% have never heard of automated home monitoring, including motion detection, water usage or auto-appliance shutoff.

Her conclusion is that vendor strategists should market to employers (to help reduce employee absenteeism), cross-license their products, and work on interoperability standards (through the Continua Alliance).

We really need to wonder about how consumers are still so unaware. Could it be with all of the vendors combined, their marketing fails to reach a fragmented audience — health care providers, elders, their children, not to mention geriatric care managers and home designers. And yet during the nightly newscast, drug companies manage to use direct-to-consumer ads to reach a very broad and affluent population, even though those drugs all require prescriptions from doctors.

So call me crazy, maybe these new vendors and their funders should form alliances and/or shop the products to drug manufacturers. Maybe drug manufacturers would understand how to describe and package the offerings so that consumers would go straight to their doctors and ask for more information. And maybe drug manufacturers would be able to describe the benefits of these products as disease prevention and intervention. Hopefully soon, before the wave of baby boomers threatens to overwhelm the facilities available to take care of them once they’re frail and in need of help.

You are not crazy. What drug

You are not crazy. What drug companies understand is how to help consumers
make the cultural shift that allows them to be comfortable with specialty
products.

Sally Field is selling a lot of pills from her back yard. And not to long ago
most men would not even talk to their doctor about their erectile problem. Now
everyone knows about the friendly, little blue pill and both men and women feel
free to openly talk about it and what it does.  Point being the little blue
pill is now firmly embedded in our collective culture worldwide.

What vendors of home healthcare and age-in-place technology need to get is that
they too are selling specialty products.  Products that a lot of
people don’t fully comprehend.  It’s kind of hard to sell someone something
that they don’t understand, that could solve a problem they deny exists!

You might be interested in what we’re doing at
AIPatHome.com (Age-in-Place at Home).
AIPatHome.com’s job is to introduce people to new products, services and
technologies that can help them better age-in-place; educate and help
them understand the benefits of these products, services and or technologies,
and be comfortable with them in their own home and lifestyle; and, help
connect
and engage people in a larger community of interest that helps keep
them vibrant and active. We show lifestyles that incorporate technology
to facilitate successful aging-in-place.

Brief background: we started out looking at ways to increase consumer acceptance
of the use assistive technologies and telecare systems in the home for
caregiving by family and professional caregivers.  Based on our research we
learned that people really want to be able to stay in their own homes for as
long as confidently possible. Yet there is great resistance to using technology
to achieve this goal.  As well as reluctance to have their home look or
feel like an institution.  We concluded that if technology was presented in
conjunction with universal design and other less intrusive smart home features,
people would have more interest and motivation to learn about and try things
that could help them achieve their goal of aging in place, in a style that
suited them.

AIPatHome continues to engage with tech
vendors encouraging them to look beyond technology and join the bigger movement
of age-in-place at home and in the community.

Meres McCarroll

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