Do It Yourself Health: Ignore This Trend at Your Peril

 In Design Strategy, Medical Product Design

Can you imagine going to the dentist two or three times per day to have your teeth cleaned?

Of course not, that would be absurd. We are taught from a very young age to brush our teeth daily now to avoid the whirring sound of a dental drill later. We continue that daily ritual for the rest of our lives.

Tooth-brushing is an ancient example of what we are coming to know today as Do-It-Yourself Health, or DIY Health.

The oral care market that targets Do It Yourselfers is a huge industry. It bridges the Great Divide between consumer health and professional services (see previous article Your Medical Product Brand’s Retail Future: Bridging the Great Divide). Think for a moment about the range of oral care products available today and the amount of money companies make on flosses, picks, mouthwashes and strips. One of our clients invented the the now-ubiquitous single-use disposable flosser and is doing quite well, thank you.

The new DIY Health trend is growing exponentially and setting the stage for entire new markets and opportunities for medical product companies. Just as the billion-dollar Do It Yourself oral care market is focused on shortening the time you sit in a dentist’s chair, other preventive care markets will evolve to engage consumers in shortening or eliminating doctor visits.

While wellness and prevention are not new concepts, greater awareness of the benefits of wellness and prevention and new opportunities for participation will drive the DIY Health revolution.

The traditional healthcare system has been built around reacting to illness. But everything your company knows about who uses your products and how they use them is about to change. The entire healthcare system will be turned inside out and the patient will take command. Faced with this massive disruption, it’s time to think about how your company will need to evolve to to remain relevant and compete.

This transformation is already starting. You can go on a field trip to your nearest CVS store to better understand how control of health activities is shifting very quickly from professional caregivers to patients. Prevention means that individuals are accepting responsibility for tasks associated with staying healthy. Repetition of these tasks is a daily job that requires changes in habits and acceptance of new lifestyles.

Smartphones, with their their instantaneous access to vast quantities of information, combined with an avalanche of media advice, about how to stay healthy have accelerated interest in DIY Health. The result is that people are thinking in fundamentally different ways about their personal preventive care responsibilities. Even more interesting – they’re not just thinking about the need to make behavioral changes, they’re ready to act.

Who, then, is going to provide the tools and further empower Do It Yourselfers to participate? You, if you’re smart. By embracing this shift, health care industry providers that act now can leverage their brands and bank accounts to own entire subsets of the DIY Health movement.

CVS made a dramatic big-time bet about its future as a DIY Health resource provider when it removed highly profitable cigarettes from its store shelves. If you wish to verify that this bet is paying off, check CVS’s stock price.

Fortunately, this movement is in its infancy. The DIY marketplace today is about where the do-it-yourself home improvement marketplace before Home Depot came on the scene. It wasn’t long ago that a hissing toilet left a homeowner completely helpless, resulting in the need to call a plumber. In 1978, Home Depot empowered ordinary people to help themselves and save money. This inspired an entire industry of Do It Yourselfers and products made just for them.

DIY Health is also about empowerment. Giving people the tools, knowledge and expertise to help themselves. Less expensive devices, medicine and delivery systems will leave more money in a person’s pocket to increase the amount of healthcare they receive. Your company’s responsibility to provide solutions will increasingly become obvious.

Right now, you should be asking yourself, “What is the next oral care market? What does the entire ecosystem for that preventive healthcare opportunity look like? And what is the product we could make that would enable the Do It Yourselfer to participate?”

Many startups are taking a run at this opportunity. It’s my opinion, however, that the mid to large established medical product companies, with their superior resources, are best positioned to own this new space.

How rewarding would it be not to just enter the budding DIY Health marketplace, but reap the myriad benefits of inventing a new product category?

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