Healthcare, like many industries, is in the midst of a technological revolution. Unprecedented access to data, an emerging landscape of consumer-centric applications and devices, and new treatment options are transforming the way we interact with the healthcare ecosystem. We have a wealth of information and tools at our fingertips to create more connected and personalized experiences, making digital health the buzzword to end all buzzwords. However, the scale of the problems we aim to solve remains daunting. With 90% of US healthcare expenditure going towards chronic and mental health conditions, and with those conditions often having their root in behavioral, social, and economic factors, we need sustained, effective solutions to help people with a burden that is not only day-to-day, but hour-to-hour.

Technology has huge potential to help us navigate this landscape, whether by providing us with more granular information to make treatment decisions and recommendations (such as via connected devices), or by using that information more intelligently to deliver personalized experiences (such as machine learning and artificial intelligence techniques). But it is important to remember to design these digital health tools in service of a person – a person with their own set of goals, motivations, and barriers to changing their habits and taking control of their health.

Technology, by itself, struggles to take account of these individual factors

For example, despite their potential, wearable devices suffer from an adoption problem. Anyone else know someone who games the wellness challenge by putting their Fitbit on their dog? Chatbots designed to help people manage their conditions have adoption challenges as well, given the sheer complexity and range of topics that a person with a chronic disease may want to talk about – not only topics directly related to their condition, but interconnected issues such as loneliness, costs, diet, exercising and comorbidities.

When it comes to behavior change, things get even harder. Companies such as Facebook and Snapchat have turned behavioral science into an art, getting people to tap compulsively at their phones throughout the day. Achieving equivalent engagement for health behaviors is harder, because it’s not simply about getting someone to use an app more. It’s about getting them to change habits external to the tool itself, in their daily lives.

Solutions Emerge at the Intersection of Humans and Technology

Healthcare has always been an interpersonal endeavor. People mirror the behaviors and habits of those around them. Trust is an essential precursor to someone following a plan to improve their behaviors and their health outcomes. Accountability to another person is a strong social driver of change. If this interpersonal element is so important, we need to use these emerging technologies to augment the interpersonal, rather than trying to replace it.

Dave presents Pack Health coaching model and results across chronic conditions.

Dave presenting at Salesforce’s World Tour event in Atlanta

This is one of the reasons Pack Health uses Salesforce Service Cloud as the core of its engagement platform. Salesforce’s technology has been built to empower and extend relationships – whether that’s the relationship between a salesperson and their leads, or a customer success rep and their customers. It supports that relationship without getting in its way.

Last week, I had the opportunity to share some of the ways we’ve been using Salesforce’s platform in the context of patient engagement at Salesforce’s Atlanta World Tour. From workflow automation, to integrations, to delivering intuitive digital experiences, we have used Salesforce’s technology to extend our capabilities well beyond anything we would have been able to develop in house. I was also able to share some of our aspirations with emerging technology, particularly around AI: we plan to use predictive modeling, smart content recommendations, natural language processing, and conversational interfaces to continue to augment our member experience and deliver progressively more customized and relevant programs to them.

Of course, our Health Advisors will remain at the center.

It’s easy to get swept up in the excitement of the new technologies and so-called “digital health” innovations available to us, but it’s important to keep the end goal of improving individuals’ health and well-being in mind. Because at the end of the day, our technology is only as helpful as the interactions it supports.

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