The healthcare industry's experience in obtaining and sharing data offers important lessons for all marketers.

In recent years, healthcare marketers have learned a lot about forming partnerships around data and the necessity of respecting those relationships.

For generations, ownership of healthcare data was relatively one-sided. The healthcare provider collected data on patients but was cautious about sharing information in the medical record with the patient or family members. Notes from physical exams, medical test details, and comments from other physicians were all recorded—but not easily accessed, even by patients hungry for information.

A revolution occurred in the 1990s, one keystroke at a time.

Patients thirsting for knowledge began googling their conditions. Healthcare calls it "cyberchondria," but more than a phenomena it can be risky business: Patients desperate for information often receive incorrect answers from questionable online sources. The Belgian government tried a humorous campaign against such online searches, but the truth is it's not a practice easily halted. People want to access information that empowers them, especially data on their own health.

Smartwatches are the latest tools responding to consumers' desire for health and wellness data. Billed as "personal" products, these watches can capture user heart and pulse rates, fitness activities, and more. In addition to watches, there are other products such as in-home lab tests, exercise trackers, and portable ECGs, all of which offer insightful and usually real-time data for the customer.

These tools are turning the tables on data ownership. In fact, it's said at-home tests and trackers could shift as much as $42 billion away from traditional medical office and outpatient visits (PWC Health Research Institute, 2014).

As marketers, we realize there are great opportunities and lessons—including the following seven—about customer relationships in this data-hungry age.

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Susan Solomon is a healthcare marketing vice-president in Southern California and a marketing instructor at four universities. She was a Fulbright scholar and she has written extensively on marketing, branding, and social media for more than a decade.

LinkedIn: Susan Solomon