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When was the last time you consulted ‘Dr. Google’ before visiting your own doctor in an attempt to become an instant expert on your symptoms? Or ordered a DNA testing kit? Or conducted an allergy test in the comfort of your own home? Safe to say you’re part of the consumer revolution currently underway in the healthcare sector. From wearable technology, to healthcare mobile apps to chatbots that are capable of giving an instant diagnosis, through to health kits delivered to your doorstep, the connected and empowered consumer of today is fast becoming more comfortable with the idea of taking control of their own health.

As a result, the health industry is facing one of its greatest moments of consumer change. It’s part of a wider, digitally-enabled and technologically-driven, social movement. The most exciting part is that this is about to trigger an explosion of innovation that is hard to comprehend. We are at a point in time where we have more health data than we know what to do with, machine learning is becoming highly advanced, and the wizardry of AI is about to transform health and medicine. This couldn’t come soon enough - with healthcare systems around the world becoming overwhelmed it’s technology that offers the best hope of delivering us better health outcomes.

Circus Street have released a report, exploring this revolution in the consumer healthcare industry and looking at four key areas where the industry is innovating to meet the changing and increasingly demanding consumer - Data, Search, eCommerce and D2C - and gives examples of how brands are taking advantage of the opportunities these trends present. Download it here.

As consumers become happier ‘self-managing’ their health, using wearables to digitally track their health and fitness, healthcare providers must be ready to take advantage of the opportunity this presents. Data is a rich asset, informing everything from product and service development to sales strategies and personalised marketing. And while the healthcare sector has historically been hampered by much of its data being bound by strict regulation and high levels of sensitivity, the move towards a more patient-centric, digital healthcare environment means consumers are now more willing to share personal data in return for something of value. From sales of healthcare products and social media conversations about health, to information gathered from wearables and other monitoring devices, healthcare data abounds. With the right know-how, it can be a powerful tool.

Although only one-third of people are confident with their personal data being used for AI, 61% are comfortable with their doctor using data from their wearable device. A boom in this sector, with more and more people wearing devices such as FitBits and Apple Watches, and developments in ingestible sensors is creating a two-way conversation between doctors and patients for the first time. This is revolutionising the patient experience during consultations, as doctors are immediately better informed on their patients health and wellbeing, which could have a significant knock on effect down the line as treatments are more closely monitored.

Take the treatment of diabetes as an example; a partnership between Google, Dexcom, Novartis and Sanofi has developed contact lenses that can measure glucose/insulin levels in tears, uploading the data to the cloud in real time - so the slightest of changes can be detected and treated before a problem develops.

This is just one way that highly innovative ventures can develop, all from the power of data. Partnerships are another way for companies to capitalise on this growing trend; a good example of this is Johnson and Johnson who have collaborated with infant sleep monitoring company Rest Devices. Together, they are creating products that use data to customise a baby’s care. For example, their ‘Nod’ app combines Johnson & Johnson’s ‘Baby Sleep’ app with analytics from Rest’s infant sleep wearable onesies and crib monitors. This information then enables parents to better personalise sleep care for their babies.

The tech giants have also been quick to spot the opportunity, investing billions in health initiatives including Apple’s HealthKit, the Calico Project from Google, Samsung Medison and IBM Watson Health. Big pharma isn't far behind: Philips is now a major player in this sector, having spun off its more than 100-year-old lights business to focus on health and technology, and GSK recently teamed up with Imperial College London to make use of F1 sensors technology to detect neurological dysfunction.

In the future, Machine Learning and AI will undoubtedly handle much of the data analysis required to take full advantage of the opportunity this healthcare data offers. At present, however, there is still a strong need to invest in skilled data specialists - two-thirds of pharma and healthcare companies have stated that improving data analysis capabilities is very important and companies must ensure they have the right talent in house before attempting to take advantage of the data they hold.

The consumer is driving this revolution in healthcare: to keep up we need to understand the new tech landscape. Businesses that understand the challenge, identify their skills gaps and power up their teams with the digital knowledge they need to take advantage of this seismic shift will be the ones that win out. Let the health revolution begin!

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