Digital health is anti-social.
No one likes today’s digital health products and platforms. Digital health doesn’t fit into our digital landscape of likes, comments and shares. Unlike TikTok, Fortnite and rising sensation Clubhouse, digital health doesn’t provide us with the opportunity to come together and be human.
All too often, users will download a digital health app, maybe preview its features, and never return. I personally have over a dozen health apps I downloaded but never opened. I like the idea of digital health — who doesn’t? — but digital health products themselves are a flop.
It’s time for health to become Social+. Social+ companies take a category — games, commerce, music, etc. — and build an integrated social experience around it.
As D’Arcy Coolican of a16z put its “the best version of every consumer product is one that’s intrinsically social”.
So how do we make Social+ health?
1. Move beyond data and information
Health apps are too often experienced as charts and numbers, a big turn-off. Health information remains sterile and disengaging; data is pointless if there’s no context. Yet when health information is contextualized into understandable, social forms of health content — such as viral videos, sharable graphics and quick posts — we’re able to reach broader audiences and have health become a part of a larger social context.
Social platforms like YouTube are recognizing the importance of better health messaging and have launched their new health content program — featuring videos from the leading health partners.
An example of health content.
However, health content is just the first step in making health Social+, as it only raises awareness. Awareness alone doesn’t necessarily generate a social experience.
2. Create a safe space for health stories
As social creatures, our brains are built for stories. Social+ health is driven by stories — stories that are personal and relatable, vulnerable and inspiring. When we share our stories of health and healing, we are connecting with our communities and breaking down the barriers that make health so disenfranchising. Apps like MyHealthTeams and The Mighty facilitate safe places for health seekers to share their stories with others who can relate, offer support or simply acknowledge each others’ experience.
3. Build relationships that promote healing
While health stories help us relate to each other and feel less alone, it’s our relationships that sustain us on our health journeys. Having a relationship with someone who is a part of our health journey provides us with the interaction we so desperately crave as social creatures. We cannot heal alone. We need relationships to navigate the difficulties of disease and ailments. We need the give and take of relating with one another, the dialogue and the companionship of other humans to keep going when healing proves difficult. Digital health products that feature these sorts of relationships such as Omada’s health coaches are able to make health social, but not necessarily Social+.
Consumer products are only really Social+ when they activate the most social of all activities: creating. Whether you’re creating new stories for Instagram, new worlds within Fortnite or new fashion accessories in augmented reality, humans are most social when we can create and express ourselves. A truly Social+ digital health product will act as a canvas for health seekers to create and share new health experiences, solutions and realities. Just look at Social+ companies like TikTok and Instagram. They boast billions of views for health creations, allowing a new narrative for health to emerge: a socially driven, empowering journey of healing that is no longer victim to stigma, but rather another opportunity to bond, relate and create.
As digital health becomes more ubiquitous, we will see digital health companies try and manufacture social interactivity around their health products. But they will falter until they transform their health data and information into compelling content, provide a space for sharing stories, cultivate relationships that support healing and allow health seekers the opportunity to create.
Only then will digital health reach Social+ status.