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September 2016

Why Pokemon Go is More Important to the Future of Healthcare Than Your EMR By Bruce Brandes (with Charlie Martin)

By | Blog, Interview | No Comments

(as seen on HIStalk on September 7, 2016)

Over a year ago, I completed an HIStalk blog series entitled “All I Needed to Know to Disrupt Healthcare, I Learned from Seinfeld.” Now we have a new pop culture phenomenon from which our industry has much to learn.

At a recent conference, keynote speaker and legendary healthcare services entrepreneur Charlie Martin made the following proclamation to a ballroom full of healthcare IT leaders: “Pokemon Go has more to do with the future of healthcare than your EMR.”

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I’m pleased to collaborate with Charlie through this column to illuminate how a free gaming app will have more of an impact than the billions of dollars spent on an array of electronic medical record systems over the past couple of decades.

Who Cares About Your EMR?

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When you are at home, do you celebrate your plumbing or electricity? Were the type of pipes or wires used in the house a factor in your decision to buy your house? Certainly being able to have light at the flip of a switch and taking a shower are foundational requirements in any home, expected to always work and not be the cause of problems.

Similarly, the EMR is not a reason a patient selects a hospital or physician. Patients assume and expect you to give them the right drugs, monitor their lab tests, and perform clinical procedures according to best practices. Please keep your Epic go-live parties (and the disproportionate financial investment you’ve made) in perspective.

Moreover, not only does a patient not care about which EMR you use, here’s another potentially shocking revelation. Apart from delivering a baby, no person ever really wants to be a patient in a hospital. The healthcare system of the future aligns incentives and engages people to be healthy and avoid the hospital if at all possible.

That is where Pokemon Go becomes more meaningful than your EMR. As our industry clamors to advance initiatives such as population health, consumer engagement, and virtual care to move from a sick-care system to a health-care system, there is much to learn from the example set by Pokemon Go.

What Pokemon Go Has Done in 30 Days that EMRs Couldn’t Do in 30 Years

  • Attracts 21 million users and 4-5 million new downloads a day.
  • Users spend an average of 45 minutes per day finding Pokemon (and get exercise by walking or running as a byproduct).
  • Seven of 10 users who download the app return the next day.
  • With a free application, Pokemon Go has generated $1.6 million in revenue per day.

Key Takeaways from Pokemon Go for Healthcare

Gamification and augmented reality drive real “meaningful use.” If Pokemon Go can get people moving worldwide in 30 days, just think about how we can extrapolate the platform from here. We are exponentially expanding the number of people who are exercising without realizing they are exercising. How can this concept be applied to drive healthier eating, medication compliance, and preventative screenings?

  • No boundaries. Virtually every individual carries a powerful computer in their pocket in the form of a smartphone. Pokemon Go meets people where they are — in their home or office, on their schedule, and at their convenience.
  • So simple your kid or your grandma can use it. No friction to drive viral use. No cost (freemium model to revenue). Very obvious to understand how to download and use. No implementation or training required.
  • Free. In order to get rapid adoption, do not create friction by charging users to engage. In addition to Pokemon Go, few people would have ever used applications such as Facebook, LinkedIn, TripAdvisor, Yelp, etc. had there been a cost to participate. That said, these companies have figured out how to subsequently monetize from third parties that derive benefit from the resulting widespread engagement of millions, without infringing on the value and trust experienced by all those free users.

There is a new wave of healthcare innovations which strive to incorporate the principles above into their new solutions.

Among them, I’m sure you’ve noticed that Apple has set their sights squarely on impacting the healthcare industry. Healthcare has taken note of Silicon Valley’s track record of creating new businesses which have put many entrenched institutions out of business. Apple clearly appreciates the foundational value of the electronic medical record, but sees it as a commoditized base from which real value will be created. Apple CEO Tim Cook recently commented regarding its healthcare aspirations:

We’ve gotten into the health arena. We started looking at wellness. That took us to pulling a string to thinking about research. Pulling that string a little further took us to some patient care stuff. That pulled a string that’s taking us into some other stuff. When you look at most of the solutions — whether it’s devices or things coming up out of big pharma — first and foremost, they are done to get the reimbursement, not thinking about what helps the patient. If you don’t care about reimbursement, which we have the privilege of doing, that may even make the smartphone market look small.

What might he be referencing regarding thinking about what helps the patient?

Lead an active lifestyle. Eat natural, whole foods. Rest. Care for those in your community. These are many of the basic principles on which people have lived since the beginning to time, at least until recently. Proven choices that lead to health, enhanced and exacted by an explosion of promising digital health solutions, are perhaps our path back to the future of healthcare.

Established healthcare organizations – providers, vendors and supportive third parties alike — need to think differently, collaborate in new ways, and be a meaningful part of embracing and accelerating innovation. Pokemon Go represents a step (or 10,000 steps per day) in the right direction.

Bruce Brandes is founder and CEO of Lucro. Charlie Martin is chairman of Martin Ventures