Being category generalists teaches us a few things. We often see the shopper’s involvement in a purchase decision in line with the significance of that purchase. But healthcare decisions have traditionally strayed from this line of thinking—with consumers not feeling empowered to make informed decisions, despite the apparent significance of the outcomes. Maybe that’s in part why the healthcare experience has been one of low satisfaction, but that can–and is—changing.

Today there’s an opportunity for marketers to see patients as consumers and shoppers (and of course, still people). Patients are in fact not so patient—they are consumers with increasing expectations for their healthcare experiences. Healthcare is no longer only about healing when sick, but also maintaining and building when well.

The number of health apps available to track daily habits is exploding with the quantified self movement. There are apps and personal technologies to track your sleep and wake habits (Sleepbot, Beddit), to monitor when you walk (Fitbit) and where you run (Nike+), to document what you eat (MyFitnessPal, Nutritionist), and well, you get the idea. There are tools available online to help find the best doctor for you (HealthGrades, RateMDs, Vitals), and you can participate in health support forums, watch fitness video bloggers, and read daily health tweets (Everyday Health).

Now, being healthy is a journey. With these tech-tools, consumers are more aware of their own wellness, of options available to them, and of resources to inform health decisions. So they are more likely today than in the past to seek experiences that are emotionally and logically aligned with their personal needs, values, and priorities.

sleepbot

Consumers are as interested in finding success rates as they are in seeking the best value. They need quality of time with their doctors as much as timely care. And they want user-friendly interactions in their real-time digital access to health resources. So whether you’re marketing a fitness product, a health system, or a nutrition plan, remember to treat patients as consumers, as shoppers, and as people. With greater choices come more meaningful decisions and mindful interactions.