Philip Ellis
ogilvy on wellness
The Rise of the Savvy Health Consumer

1 in 20 Google searches are healthcare-related. That’s 100 billion queries every year. “Cyberchondria” is real, as is the growing belief among consumers that they know best when it comes to their health. “We have this narrative where we think we know our bodies best, and we filter doctors’ advice on things like alcohol or calorie intake,” says Jess Kimball Leslie, Chief Futurist at Ogilvy.

The numbers back this up; 62 per cent of people will research their prescribed treatment online, while 53 per cent are likely to research alternative treatments. “With more information, people become more polarised, not less,” says Christopher Graves, President and Founder of the Ogilvy Centre for Behavioural Science, “because you find more to back up your own point of view — even if it’s totally wacky.”

But are people turning to homeopathy because of strictly medical benefits? “A lot of alternative medicine does not work, and yet people ask for it, and pay for it,” says Adrian Furnham, Professor of Psychology at University College London. “People don’t only want to be physically healthy, they want more than that; to flourish, to be well, happy, exuberant. They believe this is possible and that they can find it. And the more their lifestyle causes them stress and illness, the more they seek it. And they’re not necessarily getting it from conventional providers, so they’re looking elsewhere.”

The consumer’s growing insistence on taking ownership of their own health and wellbeing coincides, unsurprisingly, with the proliferation of personal trackers and a host of other wearable devices which provide people with unprecedented insight into their own bodies. This enables a level of personalisation, from workout recommendations to preventative health measures, that we’ve never seen before. “Averages are great in concept, but silly in our daily lives,” says Kimball Leslie. “A BMI is like a caveman calculation; it’s not that great an indicator of how healthy we are. Big data is able to deliver exactitudes.”

It’s possible, even likely, that the modern human instinct to save and share content will translate to our health data. And so the challenge facing the healthcare world is building a platform which encompasses myriad elements; devices and diagnostics, therapists and practitioners, hospitals and home health agencies. “With 1,100 terabytes of data generated per lifetime, there’s an arms race going on right now, regarding who’s going to build the health platform of record,” she adds.

With consumers keener than ever before to feel a sense of empowerment and ownership when it comes to their minds and bodies, it falls to brands to ensure that the services they provide offer accountability, autonomy and control across all aspects of wellness, from physical health to mindfulness.

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