A Lesson For Business – In Healthcare, Prevention Is Better Than Cure

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As wearable technology starts to become mainstream, and as sensors start to make all sorts of gadgets ever more ‘intelligent’, the opportunities in healthcare are enormous.

Already devices such as Fitbit, Nike+FuelBand and Basis are empowering individuals with data that allows them to understand their sleep, heart rate, perspiration, calories burnt etc., in order to try and live a healthier lifestyle.

As advances in technology have enabled people to live longer and medicate more conditions, the cost of healthcare in many societies is soaring. Institutions, such as the NHS in Britain, are struggling with the increasing health demands of the nation, the expenditure involved, and the moral dilemmas that balancing these considerations presents.

However, prevention is cheaper than cure. As we move towards a world with sensors on wristbands that can warn of heart attacks before they occur, sensors in urinals that can warn of health issues by analysing your morning toilet activities or smart toothbrushes that analyse saliva and can assess tooth decay, individuals will be able to prevent health conditions before they happen.

This phenomenon however, is not limited to health. The same principles are starting to affect all aspects of our lives. Technology is being carried with us all the time. It knows where we are and what we are doing.

As technology becomes more intuitive it can become more of an enabler in our everyday activities. Already, apps such as ‘easilydo’ are being created. By accessing all aspects of our lives such as routes to work, Facebook connections and our calendar etc., ‘easilydo’ becomes our personal assistant. It is able to send automated messages when we are late for a meeting,warn us of traffic congestion before we start a journey and send birthday messages to friends without even having to ask.

The relevance of all this innovation should not be lost on every single business. The fact is, companies always understood the necessity to grasp the ‘needs’ or requirements of their market. By being able to solve the issues and challenges customers faced, and by recognising their concerns and desires, business could provide ‘value’ and, therefore, acquire clients willing to pay for their products and services.

What is amazing, is how many companies don’t truly understand the real value they provide as perceived by their customers. All too often there is a mismatch between where a company perceives it provides value and where the client actually obtains the real value.

For example, I once worked with an I.T company who made huge investments in cutting edge technology and sold themselves on innovation. However, when speaking to I.T. Directors about their reason for outsourcing certain areas of their I.T. provision to this particular business, not one mentioned innovation. Instead, the main motivation was taking risk away from their own company. In other words, these I.T. Directors were more interested in buying an insurance policy.

The importance of understanding why a company’s proposition appeals to customers and, therefore, ways it can be improved, should not be lost on any business (although surprisingly it often is). However, as we move into this brave new world, companies are going to have to become even smarter.

With data available, revealing more about the market places that any business serves, customers are expecting more. Already Google, Facebook and others are looking to increasingly anticipate needs rather than simply fulfil them. In other words, Google can move from just providing search, to being a recommendation engine. The opportunities this creates are enormous. For example, a business can ensure it is the first to be in front of a prospect, with a relevant offering. It can also become more of a trusted partner by being able to provide insight to customers, and then answers, even before a customer realised the challenge was upon them.

Google and Facebook may be ahead of the game, but this principle should not be lost on any business. Competitive advantage will increasingly be created, not just by fulfilling the needs of customers, but by using data and algorithms to anticipate what customers will want.

The key to the future of sustainable healthcare will be prevention rather than cure. This will be achieved by using technology and data to anticipate what customers require to keep them healthy before illness occurs. This is no different in business. The companies that can use technology and data to anticipate their customers’ requirements in their own market place, will be the businesses that lead the market and perform the best.

So how well do you understand the value your company provides right now? Do you have a good idea of what your customers will require next?

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