Numbers Aren’t “Health”

Digital technologies geared toward supporting Health are growing at a rapid clip. Almost every day a new product is launched, promising some form of Health or Healthcare utility.

As the technologies evolve – especially devices that do the heavy-lifting that once required expensive interventions – their proper development, implementation, and proper understanding of their specific roles/functions become paramount.

There is one prominent keyword used in the marketing of these #DigitalHealth technologies that can be a source of great misleading hype (intentional or unintentional). That term is “track”.

A common tagline or general claim of these products is something along the lines of “X can track your health”.

But numbers and qualitative metrics, aren’t “Health”.

“Health” is such an encompassing term as to be so vague it has no meaning. Health derives from “whole”. You hear its origin in words like “heal” and “holy”. The cheesy idiom “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” applies here – the sum of numbers and quantified “selves” doesn’t quite get to the “Health”.

When you hear “this is healthy for you”, what does that mean? Water is “healthy for you”. It’s also “deadly for you”. It’s not the water that keeps you healthy: its water’s proper homeostatic processing within an organism’s system – its unique panoply of molecular, topological, and volumetric properties working as the body’s protective systemic armour under the right conditions that determines the life drive. Hypervolemia can kill you. Uncontrolled Pulmonary Edema isn’t a fun way to go.

Numbers are helpful guides, but they can be misinterpreted, and can lead to misdiagnosis or missed diagnosis. They can provide a false sense of being “healthy”.

So here’s the main point: it’s one thing to claim “X tracks pulse, weight, and oxygenation”. That equation specifies the exact metrics being tracked. It’s another to declare that “X tracks your Health” says nothing. There’s no specifics and even the term “Health” isn’t defined. It’s not a falsifiable proposition. You can count your steps, but the numbers don’t help you if you’re about to run into a brick wall.

Marketing Digital Health and other technologies and software that support our health (in whatever way it’s defined) is an essential activity in the evolution of Healthcare.

Bad marketing and sloppy thinking and vague claims might sell products. But in the long run, it’s counter-productive for the industries in the markets, generates problems for HCPs in proper diagnosis, treatment and management, and unsafe for consumers.

Smart, experienced, and knowledgable marketers know how to create copy that simultaneously sizzles and states facts.

Don’t be afraid to call out the amateurs. Who knows: it might even be healthy for you. That’s not a falsifiable proposition…still it could be fun to terrify a startup unicorn with a healthy question mark.