Attending the 18th annual Health Care Internet Conference in sunny Arizona left me with two impressions that go against the prevailing wisdom of health care being behind the digital marketing curve.

Health Care Internet Conference

Those impressions were opportunities and inspiration, both of which came to mind continually while learning of the successes that my peers are experiencing with providers nationwide.

It is obvious that the seismic shifts in the national health system are not stopping providers from collectively innovating, experimenting and succeeding with digital marketing initiatives.

Here are the top three opportunities and top three inspirations that I took home:


More retail choices in health care with digital user experiences. Karen Corrigan of Corrigan Partners highlighted digital services such as, and One Medical Group as some of the health choices that are already available to consumers. We can receive medical advice online, fill prescriptions remotely, diagnose symptoms and have 24/7 access to medical professionals. And this is just the first wave. As consumers gain more choices and information regarding their health, we will see more clinicians acknowledge that their value is providing convenient access to care, not thinking that they know more than their patients.

More big data and personalization. Digital marketers are beginning to see the inevitability of using consumer data to improve and personalize their care. Personal health data will inform the development of apps, Web properties and social media interactions. It will also improve hospital stays. Native apps have a place in the user experience as a means for consumers to make informed decisions. Mobile experiences will be the most useful and, therefore, the most widely adopted, when they can access patients’ electronic health records (EHRs).

More adoption of wearables. The wearable category – including everything from smart watches to eyeware to mesh patches – is poised for exponential growth and improvement of features in the next five years. Paul Ten Haken from Click Rain provided lots of reasons to keep our eyes on these devices, including statistics that the number of wearables shipped will rise from 19 million this year to over 111 million by 2018. (BI Intelligence)

Today’s wearables may be light on features, but that will change soon. Over 60% of today’s wearables are fitness trackers, most of which are first-generation devices with limited usefulness. The same could be said of the first car phone, or PalmPilots, or even the first tablets. In other words, don’t discount Google Glass, Fitbit, Wristify or Apple Watch just yet. Developers and marketers are breaking down barriers such as price, social acceptance and data accuracy. Envision, for instance, clinical uses such as Google Glass in the OR, where the surgeon has the capability of accessing the patient’s EHR and taking pictures or videos of the procedure hands free.

Next-generation wearables are already being developed such as baby kimonos with respiratory monitors; thin mesh monitor patches that can be sewn in a football player’s helmet; and jackets that simulate hugs for children with sensory disorders.


Lessons from the Fringe
Paul Szablowski, Texas Health Resources

  • 10-30% of what happens in a primary care facility will take place on an iPhone in the next 2 years.
  • Disruptive innovation rarely comes from market leaders.
  • Everything you’re looking for is right outside your comfort zone.
  • We must look outside health care for inspiration.
  • People will seek out what they want and need, not what you think they want and need, and they’ll seek it when and where they want.
  • Start with small changes, such as changing the name of your “Discharge Plan” to a “Good to Go” plan.
  • Build pilot programs. Find your internal tribe and move forward. Find those who are passionate like you.

UnMarketing: Stop Marketing, Start Engaging
Scott Stratten, UnMarketing

  • People spread emotion. Evoke emotion, and people will share it.
  • Understand the role of social AND what it ISN’T. Social media is not a sales funnel; it is a communication tool. It helps you keep your ear to the ground and can be a patient engagement tool.
  • A logo makes you recall two things: your most recent interaction with a brand, your most extreme interaction, good or bad.
  • The average response time for brands to reply on Twitter is 3 days. Unacceptable!
  • [Incidentally, you should see a room full of digital marketers laughing about QR code fails … for instance, a QR code in an email!]

The Mobile Health Explosion
Karen Corrigan, Corrigan Partners

  • Marketers must drive the innovation agenda.
  • It is marketers’ job to iterate product and service offerings based on consumer feedback.
  • Marketers are the ones to go out and find out consumers’ needs and how and when they prefer to access the solutions to their needs.
  • If others can disrupt us, we’d rather disrupt ourselves.

Where do you see the greatest opportunities for digital health?