Just-in-Time Health Information Systems Are Coming: Are You Ready?

June 27, 2013
118 Views

HISJust-in-time health information systems are defined as the combination of technologies, devices, data and information that deliver personalized, relevant content to consumers, health providers and others. This information is usually pushed to consumers and does not require them to proactively seek it out.

HISJust-in-time health information systems are defined as the combination of technologies, devices, data and information that deliver personalized, relevant content to consumers, health providers and others. This information is usually pushed to consumers and does not require them to proactively seek it out. This trend is important because it has the potential to radically transform how people consume health information and may greatly improve the efficacy and reach of content designed to educate and persuade.

In 2012, the Pew Internet and American Life Project released a report focusing on how people are using their cell phones to engage in real-time information seeking and sharing behaviors.  Pew’s research revealed that 70% of adult cell phone owners had conducted “just-in-time” searches using their cell phones.

In our research, we have found that active digital health consumers are also engaging in real-time search for wellness and medical information.  Moreover, this activity is not limited to the affluent.  For example, we learned that nearly 40% of active digital health consumers making less than $30,000 per year (and who owned cell phones) used the Web frequently or very frequently to search for health information.

Much of the focus – in health and beyond – has been on the proactive use of devices such as the computers, cell phones and tablets to seek and deliver information in real-time.  However, as I outlined in a recent Marketing:Health essay, this situation is changing.   I talked about how digital health content delivery systems could be deployed to provide people with relevant, personalized information when and where required.  I also mentioned that a range of “start-ups and established firms are developing pieces of the data, device and information infrastructure required to operate this digital health content network today.”  Since this piece was published, we’ve conducted additional research and have since discovered that just-in-time health information networks are more mature and widespread than I previously believed.  In addition, this trend has important implications for health marketers and communicators.

Just-in-Time Health Information Systems: What Do They Look Like?

 Just-in-time health information systems come in several flavors, including:

  • Closed Loop: These systems are defined by consumer or health provider use of technologies and information sources developed or maintained by a single organization or group of organizations working collaboratively.  For example, this can involve:
    • A user downloading a mobile health app or starting to use a device that gathers data on her health status (such as a Fitbit)
    • Providing information related to her personal preferences and health goals
    • Receiving personalized information and alerts about a range of health activities and behaviors such as medication compliance and exercise status, which are both pre-scheduled and delivered automatically depending on whether people have (or have not) engaged in certain activities or health data collected via wearable devices

Examples of firms that have developed closed loop systems include Healthrageous, which supports behavior change via technology and content and Ginger.io, which has developed mobile applications that monitor well-being and deliver personalized health information at the population level.

  • Open Loop: Open loop systems rely on data collected via the Web, social media, surveys and more to deliver personalized content to individuals.  For example:
    • A patient visits a Website or downloads an app, which requires that he input a range of information about his medical status, interests, medicines and social media accounts
    • Computer programs automatically search Web and social data and deliver relevant and personalized content designed to support behavior change and inform
    • This content can be scheduled or delivered depending on the need or situation

One firm that is operating an open loop just-in-time health information system is Medivizor, which provides people with serious medical conditions with recent, personalized and understandable medical content.

These are only two of the types of just-in-time health information systems available currently or under development.  Others can be used to leverage data about how people use mobile, social media and the Web to deliver relevant health content in real-time.  These systems can also be used to make predictions about how content and media channels will shape perceptions and behaviors today and in the future.  (My firm is engaged in work related to powering predictive personalized digital health content planning, deployment and measurement.)

Just-in-Time Health Information Networks:  Why Are They Important?

Just-in-time health information systems are important because they:

  1. Can provide new and powerful ways to deliver health information that people actually pay attention to and sparks action.
  2. Can meet consumers’ unmet need for highly relevant and personalized content.
  3. Are highly measurable given that it is possible to link content consumption with attitudinal and behavioral change.
  4. May make it necessary to significantly change the methods we use to reach, persuade and inform providers, patients and consumers about health and medicine.

Learn More About Just-in-Time Health Information Systems

In late July we will release a report focusing on the rise of just-in-time health information systems. It will feature:

  • Data on the types of digital health consumers who are interested in and could embrace personalized, real-time content
  • The various open and closed loop just-in-time health information systems that are being developed and used currently
  • Advice on how to take advantage of these systems for content development, delivery and measurement
  • Information on how to prepare for a future where existing methods of communicating and educating on health may be less effective
  • Commentary from firms actively involved in developing just-in-time health information systems

(Just-in-time HIS / shutterstock)

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