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What does it mean to have a digital consumer experience? Probably the music industry has managed to make the most of the digital market for consumers in recent years. And even now the impact of consumer and artist continues to evolve what is delivered at a pace that could well be described as beyond agile. Take the Apple reaction o Taylor Swift’s demands on how the new service should be paid for, digital supply and demand at its most obvious.

I have loved the music of Prince since being a kid. I’ve put up with all the name changing nonsense and still enjoyed his music, as a digital experience and ability to work with the consumer the artist presents an interesting story board. In the late 80s I collected everything he put out on black plastic, loved it to bits, cared for it, taped it to make different compilation albums that were mobile based on my own analytics of what I wanted to hear and in what order. Then in the early 90s I collected the originals again on cassette as it was just so much easier, more ‘consumerable’ to have the ease of access. The late 90s saw me replace the cassettes with the high quality CD generation sounds, and then place these onto my own virtual private cloud so I could share them easily with my family through early versions of social media (Yahoo Groups anyone?). And now I stream his content from my phone, a new song thrown out without warning straight from the public cloud as a reaction to social issues in the US…

So, the Harvard Business review and some of the analysts at Gartner suggest that the make-up of Digital is something called SMAC-IT, Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud IT. Prince must have seen this coming and even added a few mega trends himself.

In reality though the digital consumer experience is the centre of the world for a CIO in 2015. The digital delivery mechanism is a key consideration for all elements of the business that the CIO is responsible for. Governments globe wide are creating digital strategies, the EU has the concept of a digital, boundary-less economy, and delivering to citizens on digital first platforms is the corner stone of the UK parliament and indeed the Irish government.

In health we are often faced with comparisons to banking and tourism, the comparison normally goes like this,

‘If I can book my flight on line, even pick my seat then why can’t I book my appointment’
‘I don’t have to actually go into my bank anymore so why do I need to be face to face with a clinician to get a repeat prescription or an initial consultation.’


We have tried hard for years, right back to when the then UK Prime Minister Tony Blair first used the comparison to say, ‘But, Health is different, it is more complex!’

The need for a digital consumer experience does not stem from the availability of technology to do each job though, it comes from customer expectation. Gone are the days when a real argument against a digital fabric for health could be the training and development of clinicians and how this would be such a significant piece of work that would slow digital adoption. A nurse really doesn’t put a mouse to a screen and ask what to do with it. Why, because the nurse is walking the wards with a personal computer in his or her pocket that is probably more powerful and is certainly more accessible than any system deployed by a health service.

This then becomes why the customer should have such an impact on what the digital delivery is.

A customer genuinely does know what is going to work best in their environment. The customer journey in health needs to be catered for in a different way, accuracy, safety and efficiency are the most important elements. At a recent event the key goal of health was discussed around a table, a sensible table that agreed that comparing health and the digital fabric that is required to support health is so very different to that of a commercial organisation. Consider the core function of health, drive customers away, keep them out of services as long as possible, cut down on interactions wherever possible and be as open and transparent as you can whilst maintaining privacy. The difference to say an insurance company is compelling; the digital customer journey for an insurance company is clearly more about retention of the customer, finding more ways to interact and ultimately taking something from them that they don’t really want to give, cold hard cash!

Trying to put a definition on the digital consumer experience in health may prove to be useful; I was recently presented with a time-bound definition of three waves of engagement:

1 – Patient Centred Care – A consumer wants to be partnered with to manage their health.

2 – Consumer Engagement – Enable the digital consumer to engage in and take charge of their health.

3 – Science of prevention – Empower the digital citizen to direct their life plan, cradle to grave.

By placing these goals at the centre of our eHealth journey and ensuring we set expectations of how long it will take to get there then we will be able to enable health to be as influenced as other consumer deliverables are in how they deliver, which surely will enable the patient to be at the centre of their care to the degree that they want to be.

So finally, in the words of our analogy creating artist, ‘I’ve seen the future and it will be!’ I wish I could but we can but try.

Delivering to a consumer base that is digitally aware, capable, and willing is changing the delivery focus of eHealth. It is not creating a one size fits all solution but one that is informed by the choice of the consumer and the outcomes and engagement the consumer desires.