Just one quarter into 2018 and already headlines have been teeming with news of non-native companies shaking things up in healthcare. Apple kicked off the string of first-quarter disruptor announcements with the release of its smartphone-enabled personal health record. Word of the company’s plans to open a series of medical clinics for employees soon followed.

While Apple’s venture further into healthcare didn’t surprise many, news of a partnership between Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase did. The powerhouse companies revealed plans to create an independent healthcare company to serve their U.S.-based employees—over 1.1 million workers collectively. More recently, Walmart made waves with its rumored plans to acquire Humana. CVS’s similar acquisition of Aetna is slated to close in the second half of 2018.

The motivations voiced in each announcement echo a similar objective: to improve healthcare offerings available to patients while reducing costs. It’s a mission the healthcare industry has long been entrenched in, though many feel the change isn’t happening quickly enough. Value-based contracting and healthcare consumerism are putting pressure on providers to create a better patient experience. The injection of more consumer-savvy competitors into the marketplace will undoubtedly hasten the pace.

Each of these companies brings consumer engagement and technology expertise to the table at a time when healthcare needs it the most. As patient financial responsibility rises, so too do demands for a more convenient, personalized healthcare experience. Across the board the industry recognizes technology’s potential to simplify care delivery. A collective consensus is building on the notion that the key to deriving value and controlling long-term costs lies in pivoting away from just managing illness to more proactively promoting wellness.

Eric Schmidt, technical advisor and former executive chairman to Alphabet Inc., the parent company of Google—another healthcare outsider, led the keynote speech at this year’s Health Information Management Systems Society conference. Schmidt pointed to “killer apps” as the answer to a more digitally connected healthcare future. Explosive growth in the wellness app space supports his theory. Global revenue from the top 10 wellness apps grew 170 percent in the last year with 3.5 thousand new self-care apps projected to enter the market in 2018.

Apple and others are actively recruiting designers and partners to help develop clinical and population health management programs that emphasize disease prevention by promoting healthy behavior. Apple, Amazon and others’ much-lauded mastery of user experience design stands to benefit patients and providers alike as digital health becomes ubiquitous. Health plans and large-scale employers are increasingly looking to third-party technology partners to help establish an ecosystem that offers patients convenient digital access to care beyond the primary care provider’s wall.

BioIQ’s own efforts in this space have helped many of the nation’s leading health plans collaborate with their provider networks to promote preventive health screening programs and close care gaps among members. This is largely done by using consumer demographic and psychographic data as well as comprehensive engagement strategies that leverage multi-modal tools to ensure members receive the right message, at the right time, through the right channel. Efforts to align engagement to member preference have helped the company and their partners impact more than 10 million lives to date. You can learn more about BioIQ’s work to close the colorectal cancer care gap, just one of the many care gaps they help plans address, here.  

Will 2018 mark a tipping point in healthcare consumerism and patient engagement? Headlines certainly suggest so. It will be interesting to see what innovations emerge as the healthcare and consumer worlds continue to collide.

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