Is TikTok the new doc?

Group Director, Health Experience & Product Strategy – health innovation leader at Approval.

If you haven’t paid attention, digital products have already become a major player in everyday health management. After all, who knows more about your health: a doctor you see once a year or your Apple Watch or other health app you use daily? What has become even more common is that most people now check Google or TikTok for medical advice before seeing a medical professional. The general population now believes that influencers are more accessible than medical professionals, so their health search begins online. However, most influencers are not doctors and therefore lack the proper training and credibility.

To combat misinformation, the health industry recognizes the potential of digital health products such as wellness apps and remote monitoring solutions to scale up and provide much-needed daily health support.

I have built global digital health apps, enterprise digital platforms and games with leading global pharmaceutical organizations, health insurance companies and hospital networks. In the past, the health industry has been reluctant to create digital health-related advice because they felt it could lead to misinterpretation and liability. These same organizations are now seeing the consumer demand and business value of providing patient support, leading to a movement to create health literacy content and personalized advice through digital products.

Offer a mental health component.

On TikTok, one of the most popular health searches is for mental health support. Unfortunately, by analyzing 500 TikTok videos tagged #mentalhealthtips, research found that a staggering 83% of mental health tips were misleading at best and, in some cases, could be downright harmful. With 1 in 5 adults in the United States affected by mental illness each year, the importance of finding credible content is greater than ever.

The average psychotherapist costs between $100 and $200 per session and can have a long wait time, while people can hop on TikTok for free and immediately. This leaves a great challenge and opportunity for remote health offerings to reach and support those in need with medically valuable content.

Many digital health companies are quickly learning that member success relies on more than superficial advice on topics like diet and exercise. Whether you’re looking for weight loss solutions or dealing with insomnia or chronic illnesses, positive results often require some level of mental health support.

Apps like TikTok can feel personalized and supportive when people are in an emotional state and looking for like-minded people to connect with. Brands are now introducing more human solutions like telehealth, online communities and personalized stories of hope to provide credible mental health support. This improvement not only helps in making healthy decisions, but also contributes to lasting change.

If digital health solutions do not provide useful mental health support, the natural alternative will be to continue to seek advice from social platforms.

Streamline your customer experience.

The healthcare system is incredibly fragmented and the industry knows it. Talk to anyone and you’ll find an anecdotal story of trying to find an in-network doctor or figure out a medical bill. These calls take time and often end in a messy tangle of transfers to other departments or even a call to an entirely different company.

As a solution to the current situation of silos and to improve interoperability, digital solutions 2023 should be centered on the omnichannel experience. We see organizations taking end-to-end control of their technology stack and building design systems.

For example, the pharmaceutical industry is ambitiously looking to connect to electronic medical records and content from advocacy partners, customizing educational information and potential treatment options for patients based on the data provided. And health insurers and hospitals are consolidating technology platforms, data solutions, and siled websites into one streamlined offering. This allows members to feel a sense of control over their medical management within a centralized location.

Offer zero cost solutions.

Free options are key to mass adoption of digital health products.

Many experts point to health inequalities, with challenges such as food deserts and lack of health literacy, as the root cause of the growing prevalence of certain chronic diseases. To combat this, health insurance might be the hero we’re looking for, and if we’re following the money, they’re actually responsible for helping people avoid getting sick (fewer hospitalizations and claims mean more savings for their businesses).

Many insurance companies are now offering digital health products to large employer networks in an effort to reduce the number of people at risk for chronic diseases. Based on the success of these pilots, I predict it will become the norm for certain telehealth and remote monitoring solutions to be complementary with the intent of helping you stay healthy. TikTok is free, and if digital health products want to compete for medical advice, their solutions must also be at zero cost to their customers.

I believe digital health products will become the standard of care. But for mass adoption, it’s important that these companies consider mental health, improve interoperability, and address systemic issues.

Credible and readily available solutions will not only help people with preventative care, but provide a holistic experience that can help combat the rise of misinformation. TikTok won’t go away, but if people can access the right information through digital apps and wearable devices, 2023 can become the breakthrough year for digital health products.


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Is TikTok the new doc?

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