I was kindly invited to sit in on a webinar by Manhattan Research this morning on their new Cybercitizen Health v3.0 data about ehealth consumers. The webinar used Placeware, a competitor of Webex that I used to use to do software demos. Placeware was bought by the Evil Empire in Redmond last year and is the core of their new version of NetMeeting. Basically going to the pre-set up web site allows you to follow along with the speaker’s slides, while you dial into a conference call to hear the presentation. You can also ask a question by typing into a box, and complete polls that the speaker sets you. It’s a nice system, very suitable for online presentations and you can expect wider adoption of these webinars as people get used to it.
Manhattan Research is the survey part of the old Cyberdialogue, a company that made alot of noise tracking the eHealth space in the late 1990s, and incidentally was a rival in that to my group at Harris Interactive. In 2001 the company split into two newly named units, with Fulcrum Analytics taking the CRM side of the business and Manhattan taking the research. Manhattan has two major focuses in its syndicated research, Consumers and Doctors. It performs extremely large and long phone surveys (3,500 consumer respondents with over 150 questions) and then follows up with online surveys. It’s physician survey has over 700 respondents, which is also very large for a doctor phone survey. That means that you can cut the data several ways, which is useful for looking at subgroups of patients and physicians. Harris, for comparison tends to do smaller phone surveys but larger online ones. There’s a whole issue of survey statistical wonkiness that I won’t get into here, but take it from me that both these organizations do expensive and quality work, which is not the case for many, many surveys you’ll see quoted in the press.
So in this presentation Mark Bard, Manhattan’s president, pulled three broad themes out of the data. I’ll relay them briefly here, but forgive the odd mistake as the presentation isn’t available online yet, and I was scribbling fast. (It probably won’t be available online unless you subscribe–getting more subscribers was, after all, the point of their webinar in the first place)
1) EHealth consumers are growing as share of overall online population. There are 113 American adults online, 72 million use health information every 3 months or more, while another 10 have used some type of ehealth information at least once in the past year. The interesting part is the variation in activities online amongst the ehealth consumers, and their impact off-line. The 82 million impact a further 50 million whose health they might be managing–Manhattan estimate that that includes 30 million kids, 10 million "lazy spouses" and 10 million parents or other elderly relatives.
2) About 20% of the 72 million are "caregivers". That group is very active about using information found online. 68% use it to discuss care for themselves and others with their physician, 59% use it to discuss treatment options for particular diseases with physicians, and 65% conduct independent research about their and their relatives health online.
3) The roll of the connected consumer for health plans is also growing, but its currently very small. (I’ve commented on aspects of the reasons for this here and here). Of the 82 million, 19% had visited their health plan site, but there were few transactions going on. Only 26% (of that 19%) had checked on a claim (though many more wanted to) and only 15% had filed one online. So while there has been some progress amongst health plans in their online strategies, they are far from hitting paydirt yet.
My assessment overall is that eHealth is hitting a natural wall, with most people who want information now finding it (although Manhattan projects their number to grow to over 100 million in the next five years. The issues as pointed out by Mark Bard are:
a) What will be the role of the differing types of ehealth consumers in their off-line behavior–particularly in the doctor’s office and pharmacy.
b) How can the low number (>25%) of eHealth consumers currently doing transactions online be increased? (Hint: if it is built right they will come!)
c) How can health plans, providers and others make their online strategy a core part of their business process and outreach to consumers. It can be done and we’ll all be a lot better off when it is done!