Have you heard of the new smartphone ultrasound reader called the MobiUS SP1 by Mobisante?
This truly amazing product consists of a small device that plugs into a smartphone. It allows anyone to diagnose or monitor a medical condition and share the data remotely with a clinician. This device has made its way to doctors’ offices. Ultimately, I believe it will be in the hands of consumers, where it will become a sterling example of the do it yourself Healthcare trend I wrote about in Do It Yourself Health: Ignore This Trend At Your Peril
Consumer health products are simple and affordable home-use medical devices, often involving a service. They are transforming healthcare by migrating functional care from the hospital to the doctor’s office to the patient’s home.
Right now, whole new technology-driven product categories are being born.
What can your company do to profit from this trend? Where do you look for the next new thing? What are the hallmarks of a winning product?
Developing solutions begins with a study of personal needs. Most consumer health products will offer a few of these but the most successful ones will improve quality of life in all six of the following ways:
Offer Peace of Mind
No one likes to be sick or watch a loved one suffer. Fear of the unknown can be quite frightening.
Putting people at ease quickly should be one of your top goals. Help them answer the most important question, “What’s wrong with me and how serious is it?”. This question is usually resolved in one of three ways. Waiting and hoping the pain resolves itself, calling a physician for advice who can’t or won’t diagnose over the phone, or heading to the local emergency room.
In general, people hate hospitals and just the thought of going to the emergency room can make them sick. The anxiety and nervousness is amplified as a parent with a child writhing in pain at 3 am.
Throughout the development cycle, continually ask yourself “Are the strategic and tactical decisions we are making now going to offer peace of mind and put our end customer at ease?”.
Give Around the Clock Care
Getting sick often happens at the worse time or place. The middle of the night, on vacation in a distant land, or in an underdeveloped country you might call home.
There are already hundreds if not thousands of products and or apps that enable easy access to physicians on a pay per use or subscription basis. One such app, Doctor On Demand, boasts 24/7/365 live access to a doctor, including video calls from a smartphone.
Simplifying access, eliminating obstacles, and tailoring a solution that offers unobstructed healthcare access will increase the usefulness and subsequent sales of your medical device or app. In fact, it has already become the price of admission in a rapidly evolving new healthcare world.
Continually ask yourself during development, “Are we doing everything we can to reduce obstacles and simplify access to healthcare?”
Provide Added Convenience
Today’s busy people expect technology to simplify their lives and give them more time for the things they love to do. It’s human nature to choose the path of least resistance or the simplest way from point A to Z.
Why should a diagnosis involve three, if any, trips – the first to a doctor, the second to a lab for a test, and a third for a return visit to the doctor to interpret results? Is there a way that a new product, or a product bundled with a service or services, can be offered in a one-stop shopping format?
Your medical device should do all it can to save people time, their most valuable asset.
Promote Stronger Patient Engagement
“Out of sight and out of mind” describes the way most people live their lives. If you don’t feel sick, you aren’t sick, right? We all know that’s wrong but it’s a fundamental way of thinking. Getting people to consistently take medication, engage in therapy, or continue with treatment is at least a $100 billion dollar problem in the US alone.
Patients increasingly want to be in the driver’s seat. It gives them a sense that they control their lives. Therefore, your development team should find ways to engage the patient in their treatment plan. There are many ways to involve patients, but allowing the patient to choose how and when is the most critical component.
The FDA-approved Dexcom SHARE, which we helped develop, is a stellar example. It allows people with diabetes to share important real-time glucose information with family and friends. Parents of kids with diabetes are some of the clear winners of this breakthrough.
On the other hand, wearable fitness trackers are an example of failure to engage in a meaningful way. They’ve taken the world by storm, but after one year of use, 80% of them end up tucked away in a drawer. The superficial level of engagement and ability to simply check progress, wears off. Ultimately people need suggestions or actionable steps for becoming more fit.
Your development team should keep this in mind from day one, for patient engagement is a foundational driver of your process and its ultimate success.
Ensure Continuity of Care
There is a good chance that your grandparents went to the same doctor most of their lives who had a hanging file folder with their name on it that contained all of their medical records. Scanning a person’s medical history as part of a diagnosis was easy.
The healthcare system today is super complex and fragmented. The industry, reeling from a technology hangover, is trying to play patient record catch-up.
It is not unusual for someone with a chronic disease to see different specialists from multiple institutions in many locations. It’s crucial for their healthcare records to be accurate, updated and accessible.
A medical device company’s responsibility now extends beyond developing a safe and accurate product. Enabling storage and access to patient data on HIPAA-compliant servers is equally important.
When a physician or patient opens up their virtual medical record, will the results from your device or service be waiting for them?
Allow Remote Monitoring
Technology that connects patients and physicians remotely will likely not force doctors’ offices and hospitals to close. The probability is high that even some of the most common illnesses will continue to require an initial in-person diagnosis by a doctor.
What some of this new technology does best is enable physicians to remotely monitor, compare, and check a person’s progress. This may range from simple blood pressure monitoring to manipulating an ultrasound imaging device under a doctor’s real-time remote instructions.
Monitoring the progression of certain conditions or symptoms on a regular basis after diagnosis is important. For example, SkinVision is a mobile app that allows you to “understand your risk factors for melanoma skin cancer and keep track of your moles…and monitor them over time.”
The key is to use technology to establish a baseline and make comparisons with regular frequency.
Are you thinking yet of any innovative ways to leverage technology, allowing people and their physicians to easily keep tabs on their progress?
There you have it – six different ways to build value into your consumer health product. Bells and whistles are not enough. For your product to resonate with consumers, it’s important that you focus your product development effort on easily recognizable quality of life enhancements.