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  • Writer's pictureAri Mostov

What’s your digital health story?

We’ve gotten to the point where “digital health” has lost its meaning. The ubiquity of “digital health” has spawned massive headaches for everyone in healthcare, causing confusion at every decision making point. While every healthcare company today has some idea of what “digital health” means to them – in theory– the reality proves otherwise. We all have our own idea of what “digital health” means or looks like in practice, but in order to turn that vision into a reality, healthcare organizations need complete alignment, buy in and direction. In other words, they need a story.

While many in healthcare organizations understand the imperative of digital health transformation, that understanding is stuck in the intangible, internal mind space of “common sense” and “we all know what we’re talking about, right?”. The assumptions of digital health and the capabilities we want to see remain locked behind the closed doors of our minds, rather than being expressed with the motivational, action orientated pull of a story that can be embodied. For many in healthcare, digital health is a job for technologists and they should be able to figure it out on their own. Unfortunately, that’s how we get faulty digital health products with lots of hype but no impact on health outcomes. Healthcare organizations, from frontline workers to C suite, need a digital health story that they can be a part of. One that centers those they serve, while painting a picture of the future of healthcare.

Here are three ways to start building your digital health story:

1. Character

A great story is character-driven. It follows the adventure of a protagonist as they navigate life and its obstacles. In healthcare, there are many characters, and understanding who they are and what they want is half the battle. Still, I always encourage healthcare organizations to focus on one main character. Usually, that character is the patient. But it can also be a clinician, an administrator, a caretaker, a policymaker or a payor. Identifying who the main character is of your digital health story is essential to crafting a narrative that is compelling and executable.

2. Needs

Every character has a need or a want. Perhaps it’s explicit like “I want to spend less time with poor workflows and more time talking to my patients” or more ambiguous, “I want to feel better”. These needs are often muddled by vague corporate speak that makes it difficult to identify the tangible challenges. Identify the specific needs of your character. Do they want a better EHR system that captures SDoH data? Maybe they need a glucose monitor that connects to their caregiver’s device? Terms like “interoperability” or “accessibility” lose their potency if we don’t ground them in the reality of the character and their needs. Give us those juicy details. General vagueness makes for poor storytelling.

3. The Promise Land

Now there’s no fun or point in a digital health transformation if it’s not going to create a better possible outcome or future. For many, digital health is believed to be the holy grail solution to today’s healthcare problems. Yet we still need to know what this better future looks like. The “promise land” of digital health varies from character to character, and it’s on the healthcare organization to craft a story that fills in the blanks of what a better future looks like – as long as it meets the needs of your character. If you’re a healthcare organization that serves clinicians, perhaps the promise land looks like easy workflows or EHRs that include SDoH data. If you serve payors, maybe the promise land looks like cost effective care that scales. Or if you serve patients, the promise land most definitely should include “a better, easier experience”. Again, specific details matter here, so don’t be stingy. And while the promise land may not exist right now, knowing where you're heading with your digital health story makes it easier to get there.

Ultimately, the hype of digital health will not yield anything sustainable unless we have a story that goes along with it. Healthcare organizations who create a digital health story that they can share throughout their organization and with their customers will be able to transform the aspirational into the tangible, and see an ROI that outlasts hype and trends.

Ari Mostov is an award winning producer turned health narrative strategist. She works with health organizations to create a new narrative for health; creating products, policy and experiences that scale healing. Learn more:

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