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Companies must learn to adapt to technologically empowered consumer base

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Better informed and technologically empowered consumers are transforming health care, a trend that will reward companies most adaptive to this change in the era of the Affordable Care Act, a Johnson and Johnson executive told gathers at a New Jersey Technology Council breakfast today.

Roberto De O. Marques, group chairman of Johnson & Johnson, said the trend reflects the unsustainable pace of health cost increases coupled with technological advances –

mainly search engines and mobile applications – that make it easier for consumers to demand more personal service.

"Through blogs and social media, the consumer is taking charge," Marques told a gathering of about 60 business people and attorneys at the Lawrencville office of Fox Rothschild LLP. "They want to be treated on their own terms."

Marques said the changes are being driven partly by the Affordable Care Act, which puts added emphasis on patient-centric care through wellness and prevention, though broader trends have been underway for years.

"It's not just the ACA, it's not just the United States; it's a global phenomenon," Marques said.

Johnson & Johnson, like many companies, has been running a digital health coaching program for its workforce online aimed at preventing health problems. Employees input personal information and receive recommendations on health matters including weight management, nutrition, physical activity, sleeping and smoking cessation.

Marques said participants reported getting 32 minutes more sleep a night, while 58 reported weight loss and 89 percent reported they are better communicating with their doctor.

Prevention of problems at earlier stages is economically critical, Marques said, because consumers often become more engaged in their health care upon being diagnosed with a condition, such as diabetes, after which treatment becomes much more expensive.

The company is also in dialogue for ideas with companies such as Nike, which an electronic sensor that tracks activity including calories burned, weight and sleep, and communicates with a companion mobile app. Marques said Johnson & Johnson plans to introduce mobile apps supporting over-the-counter and prescription medicines to improve compliance.

With these trends comes increased regulation as well demands to protect consumer privacy. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has begun to regulate health care apps for safety. Marques said the FDA also now expects companies to report interactions with customers via social media.

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