Vinod Kholsa thinks that innovations in digital health and easy access to health data will put everyone in control of their health and create a new type of consumer: a Health CEO.
However, we don’t have to wait for these massive events to occur. The Health CEO exists today and they are using search, YouTube, and social media to find health services and products.
Who is the Health CEO and what effect do they have on the digital health market?
Who is the Health CEO?
A Health CEO is someone who cares enough about their health to proactively do something about their well-being.
They actively seek health care practitioners, providers, and companies who are willing to work with them on their health goals and help them direct their care.
When a Health CEO receives a diagnosis of a medical condition, they take an active role and ask the provider(s) for their different treatment options, seek clear explanations, research the outcomes, and make the last decisions.
They make lifestyle changes to avoid anticipated health problems or in response to a recent diagnosis of a medical condition.
They take prescribed medications when it is in their best interest. They seek other solutions when there are side-effects or undesirable outcomes.
Who Wants to be the CEO?
However, not everyone wants to be a Health CEO.
My experience offering online health programs and services tells me that a small percentage of the general population prioritizes their health and well-being enough to take on this role.
Studies have shown that one of the most important determinants in good long-term health is conscientiousness and we all know that not everyone is attentive to many important aspects of their life including their health, finances, and relationships.
The Health CEO Motivation
Besides conscientiousness, what motivates someone to become a Health CEO? The specific motivations can differ dramatically based upon age, sex, interests, and values.
Vanity motivates some Health CEOs. A successful online weight-management service targets men and women between the ages of 20 and 50 who want the lean, ‘six-pack-ab look’. They use digital marketing to recruit Health CEOs and service them with their proprietary internet-based consultation solution.
Goals drive some Health CEOs. A Health CEO might be a ‘weekend athlete’ in their mid-twenties who wants to use a digital health product or service to help them break their next milestone. These are everyday people who run, body-build, and swim at a serious recreational level to fulfill an important personal milestone.
Maintaining an active and independent lifestyle motivates other Health CEOs. My wife, a Physical Therapist, has built a successful practice targeting women ages 50 and older who have osteoporosis. These Health CEOs look to her to offer lifestyle change guidelines (including specific exercise programs and activities of daily living). She uses digital marketing to attract her clients, offers a ‘concierge level service’, and charges a premium for her consultations and services.
This is Too Complicated
Although these Health CEOs want to control their health choices, many realise that the health issues they are trying to manage are complex. They look to a skilled health professional to guide them through the health choices.
For example, the women that consult with my wife and use her online services know that exercise is important but they look to her to help them choose appropriate exercises since some movements can actually increase their fracture risk.
Another example? Many women turn to hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to deal with the symptoms of menopause. However, HRT is very complex. A Health CEO, regardless of their sophistication with digital health tools, still needs to work closely with a physician who understands hormones.
Health CEO or Quantified Hypochondriac?
We are rapidly entering a world where we will know a lot about our (quantified)selves. The Fitbit, Apple’s iWatch, and other devices are capturing large amounts of our personal health data.
Will this lead to too much testing and medical care?
Atul Gawande argues that there is ‘an avalanche of unnecessary medical care’ and that it ‘is harming patients physically and financially’.
We are in the early innings with this technology and we still have a lot to learn. My sense is that the Health CEO will use this technology to quantify their personal health data but will look to the skilled health professional or an online service to qualify the results. This will be especially true for complex medication conditions.
Digital Health Startups and the Health CEO
A digital health startup’s first customer will likely be a Health CEO.
In many cases, digital health companies will have to engage with skilled health professionals to market to the Health CEO.
Attracting, converting, and retaining the Health CEO means that the company needs to show domain expertise, and be authentic, accessible and approachable. The company also needs to make sure that they deeply understand the Health CEO and their needs.
The Health CEO is worth pursuing. They can afford the service, want to buy, can give valuable feedback, and will share their experiences with like-minded people.
They are a great foundation for a digital health business—a customer that you can build a business on.
This article is part of my Digital Health guide.