Digital Health Strategy: From Novelty to Necessity
March, 29, 2013
Is your digital health gadget a novelty?
I’m guilty. The devices I carry with me are more an intellectual curiosity than a tool driven by my desire for health or wellness. And there lies a key insight into this marketplace. The attention around steps traveled or even the visualization of anatomy has captured our imaginations, but has often stopped there. Yes, it’s cool. But is it clinical?
I find most of the robust use of trackers and alike in this category is in the group that needs them least! It’s the mean and lean athletic types who are advancing their physiology to a higher level of perfection. How can we entice the “guy like me” to be more engaged? We can learn a lot from the pharma and healthcare industries. There’s a key driver that can be a powerful tool to moving from novelty to clinical necessity–THE DOCTOR.
“My doctor recommended it”
There are few words that are more powerful in driving consumer/patient engagement then the authoritative words of your trusted physician. And along those lines, there are some core strategies that digital health must embrace. These core drivers my live along side of the traditional consumer activities that have taken hold in the marketplace. With the exception of a few players, the patient.consumer is the primary “pull” that drives sales in today’s digital market. However, the “push” from the physician (and other healthcare providers) is an essential element for success of the digial health movement. But advocacy is often the last step in the adoption curve. So, there’s a lot of work to be done. It’s a process and follows a logical flow.
A difficult but critical path to physician advocacy
My concern is that digital health may be “jumping” to advocacy without some traditional building blocks. And that’s a strategy that can be a real pit-fall, resulting in advocacy that is transient and, at best, and not supported by the traditional learning that is ingrained in medical school and defines clinical practice.
- Awareness. Simply put, most rank and file physicians are unaware of digital health. They too, often see it as a novelty. Anecdotal exposure to one of my devices had been met with more of a sense of interest than a desire for a practical clinical application.
- Trial. The jump from awareness to trial can be tricky. But “hands on” participation in digital health is very important. In fact, personal physician use of a device may be a key tactic in gaining strong traction.
- Validation. Physicians like data. They seek the “p value” of statistical significance or at least some aspect of validation. And here’s where peer reviewed publications and peer to peer communication can play a big role. While digital health might not have a “pharma-style” clinical trial, the use “clinical data” is central to physician selling. Further, the role of regulatory agencies can be significant in establishing an “approved” mind-set to support clinical data.
- Support. Everyone know that value of a pharmaceutical sales representative. For better or worst, they have a direct impact on sales. Today’s digital world can offer up a similar engagement strategy. And while it might not be a direct personal contact, the connection with the physician must be made–and made in clinically relevant way. Directing a physician to a “consumer” web site will fail to present the brand in the content that will best sell-in the role of digital health.
- Advocacy. Finally, you can arrive at the level of brand support that can powerfully impact adoption and sales. But the reality is that advocacy is fragile and is supported by trial, validation and support. So, there process goes on and on..
Adding substance to craft a more compelling story
Digital health is certainly in the news. From here at Forbes to The Colbert Report, it’s seeking its place in the health and minds of consumers. But its lasting significance may rest with the healthcare provider who can be the primary and most effective advocate of this technology.