Your health, yourself: Dana’s daily dose

In the fourth part of this series by Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide on the quantified-self movement, we meet doctor-adverse Dana who is trying to manage her headaches with over-the-counter pain relief.

(Continued from “Your health, yourself: Claude’s case of compliance“)

Over the course of this series you will be introduced to Thiery, Marta, Claude, Dana and Harry – each of whom (like most of us) have specific health concerns to deal with and / or wellness goals to reach. As both consumers and patients today, they have access to a wide range of personalised technology that promises to smooth their path to wellbeing. But whilst in theory these individualised offerings are more effective than traditional approaches, in reality success is far from guaranteed. It seems that even though health information is readily available at the touch of the button or a swipe of the finger, it is rarely packaged in a way that is truly relevant and meaningful to us as consumers.

Meet Dana. Better yet, come back and meet Dana tomorrow. Right now she’s got one of her infuriating weekly headaches and let’s be honest, she’s not much company. Yes, we know, she should pay her GP a visit and sort it out but you know what Dana’s like, she doesn’t want to bother anyone. Easier to just pop by the supermarket pharmacy whilst doing her weekly shop and pick up a packet of ‘PainAway’ pills – a reassuringly familiar brand that she has used since these darn headaches started on her 30th birthday, nearly 4 years ago.

Up until now Dana has just got on with it, managing her symptoms pretty successfully in her opinion. But recently a few doubts have started to niggle. Is she too tense? Does she need glasses? Or could it even be something more serious? Before causing a fuss and scheduling what would probably be an unnecessary appointment, she conducts a little Internet research and quickly comes across a useful online clinic hosted by one of the private pharmacy chains. The automatic symptom checker suggests that she suffers from chronic migraines and advises her (no surprises here) to consult her GP. For once, she agrees.

“…more and more of us are self-medicating or turning to the advice of pharmacists before heading straight to our GP or specialist.”

So is Dana’s behaviour normal? Indeed it is. Like Dana, more and more of us are self-medicating or turning to the advice of pharmacists before heading straight to our GP or specialist. In fact, nearly two thirds of seasonal allergy sufferers have been shown to only visit their doctor if self-medication doesn’t work sufficiently1. This trend is no doubt encouraged by recent developments in the European pharmacy industry. By expanding into multiple retail channels, accessibility to over the counter (OTC) medication has increased dramatically at the same time as fresh and innovative products have hit pharmacy shelves. Relaxed regulations have led to the arrival of new players including many mass-market supermarket chains and as a result not only is the entire sector experiencing unprecedented growth – but the stakes are rising.

So how does the theme of personalised health fit into this picture? Well for forward- thinking pharmacies the benefit of a more individualised approach could be twofold: improving public health whilst providing a much needed competitive edge. Knowing that Dana (like many of us) approaches her purchase of OTC medication like any other consumer good means that the brands looking to shine will have to think harder about each patient’s particular shopping experience.

Many OTC retailers are already capitalising on this by offering personal apps at the point of sale, allowing consumers to access information and offers relevant to them through codes and links on their smartphones. But why not get even more up close and personal?

“…accessibility to over the counter (OTC) medication has increased dramatically at the same time as fresh and innovative products have hit pharmacy shelves”

The world of retail offers a cosy environment for OTC manufacturers to forge stronger and more meaningful relationships with consumers, but only if they place sufficient value and focus on building brands. Whilst Dana might not be open to advice from a huge unfriendly sounding pharmaceutical, she might listen to lifestyle recommendations from a name she trusts – like ‘PainAway’ or the own- brand of her preferred supermarket. Plus, where better to introduce an incentive or loyalty programme than in the supermarket aisle, where consumers are already familiar with systems of point counting and coupon clipping? What if a ‘health value’ was attached to the different consumer health products offered by the pharmacy – from functional food products to OTC medication – and this data was collected and exchanged into personalised customer incentives and membership privileges?

Apart from encouraging loyalty, personalised health information can be used in other ways by innovative pharmacies to deliver truly effective patient care. Self- monitoring products have long been used to help millions of people worldwide treat lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol. As technology advances, allowing for more precise consumer data and more high- tech devices, the opportunity for OTC to create mutually beneficial applications is clear. In 2012, Alliance Boots launched the Eye Check mobile app, a consumer service that performs checks and tests across a range of eye health markers including visual acuity, duochrome and colour astigmatism. Users can track results, receive individualised eye health advice and even use the integrated Boots Optician finder to locate their nearest store and make an appointment.

And if you think that sounds futuristic, wait until you hear what else the industry innovators have in the pipeline. In the coming years, the hot phrase in OTC circles is sure to be ‘laboratory miniaturisation.’ What this concept aims to do is allow users to conduct specialised tests in the comfort of their own home, using small personal devices, or ‘labs-on-a-chip’. For doctor-adverse patients such as Dana, this technology could be especially appreciated, allowing her to detect the early onset of disease and instantly get test results without the inconvenience of a clinic visit. And if she does need a second opinion, hi-res cameras and imaging algorithms will enable her self-medication to be supported by the remote observational screening of a medical practitioner.

Capturing and sharing personal data in this manner brings obvious advantages to both the patient and the pharmacy who supplies their medications. In so far as regulation allows, cross-analysis of an individual’s lifestyle and health behaviour can reveal opportunities to promote healthy lifestyle options and products that will improve patient health and pharmacy sales. Just as consumer brands have been doing for years, OTC manufacturers can now start to understand the real world behavioural patterns of their consumers and tailor promotional messaging in real time. Customer websites can be automatically customised to perfection, and individualised communication – emails, voicemails, responsive digital billboards in the public space – can all deliver promotional messages that fit the current needs of the patient.

“Self- monitoring products have long been used to help millions of people worldwide treat lifestyle diseases.”

But what about Dana? Well the good news is that she has felt much calmer since her official migraine diagnosis. However, she’s now faced with a new health concern. Encouraged by her recent experiences of online health she took the advice of best friend Joyce (and 230,000 other users) and joined ‘HealthOn’, a pharmacy support and loyalty programme. During the sign-up health check and profiling the system noticed that the cholesterol results of a recent blood test were far from ideal. At first Dana was alarmed but HealthOn has really helped her take control of the situation. As a member she has free access to an online ‘virtual clinic’ with real physicians, one of whom recently recommended a brand new cholesterol-lowering OTC product in place of an expensive prescription. Plus the membership gives her a 15% discount on most medications, free delivery and the culmination of ‘health- value’ points, which she can exchange for rewards such as health services or product discounts.

All in all, Dana is feeling happy and healthy. The highly personal attention she enjoys from the online pharmacy reassures her that everything is ticking along nicely and for once the health information they send is right on target. The articles are interesting to read and pleasant to receive with a friendly tone that makes a nice change from the usual pushy emails and door drops. And then there is the MediFriendTM – a state-of-the-art healthcare device that regularly and easily evaluates her main health stats. After saving up enough health-value points she redeemed them online for the product, and all she has to do is put a small drop of blood on its little screen every day – everything else is automatic. Data is transmitted to a central database and immediate feedback is sent on the results. Not only can she track her cholesterol levels – her main concern at the moment – she can also receive feedback on her OTC pain medications to ensure she has the optimal dosage. If anything looks untoward, Dana is immediately notified and an appointment (either in person or online) is booked with an appropriate healthcare professional. Which is one less headache to worry about!

 

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Health highlights:

• Patients who regularly self-medicate with OTC products are good candidates for self-quantifying their health.

• Future solutions can help consumers (safely) take increased responsibility for the treatment of common, chronic conditions.

Do:

• Support autonomous individuals with tools that give personal control without replacing professional health oversight

• Create simple solutions that provide automatic feedback and require little manual effort

Don’t:

• Rely on technology to do all the work. Digital devices need to be accompanied by scientifically sound behavioural support.

References

1. Krueger KP, et al. Improving adherence and persistence: a review and assessment of interventions of steps towards a national adherence initiative. J Am Pharm Assoc 2003;43:668–79.

The next article in this series will be published next week.

Other articles in this series:-

Your health, yourself: Thiery’s technotraining

Your health, yourself: Marta’s nutrition mission

Your health, yourself: Claude’s case of compliance

 

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About the authors:

Andreas Kindler, Chairman of Ogilvy Healthworld Germany

Ditlev Ahlefeldt-Laurvig, Head of Advertising, Ogilvy Healthworld UK

Lisa Roby, Managing Partner of Strategy & Planning, Ogilvy Healthworld UK

Closing thought: How can we better support doctor-adverse patients who are keen to manage their own health?