How Digital Health Startups Can Succeed In 2020


This has been a challenging year for all of us so far. You might believe that as an entrepreneur, 2020 is already over. However, as a startup growth advisor, I think that’s far from the case. This year, I am especially looking forward to working with new startups in the digital healthcare space.

Over the past two decades, I have witnessed many digital health companies go down, and a few of them were companies I was consulting. Their decline had nothing to do with their product or what they were selling, but it had everything to do with how informed their clients were and the company’s delivery.

Most of the time, these companies had complicated apps or services that tried to help consumers. But think from a consumer’s point of view for a moment: They likely are not feeling well and are exhausted. If you make it that much more difficult for them to get in touch with you or use your product or service, they’ll move on to another provider.

I believe if founders knew how to better break down consumers’ personas, not only their symptoms, then they could understand their point of view. (That said, I don’t blame them at all because I’ve found through surviving three autoimmune conditions that experiencing a chronic illness firsthand really helps you to understand someone who is facing the same struggle in real time). With this in mind, here is what I suggest for founders:

Focus on your patients and giving them the best care possible.

If companies focus on the patient experience, then they will win. What do I mean by “experience?” I mean that you should do things differently than other digital health companies.

Make your service extremely intuitive for anyone to use. Provide a done-for-you service. Meet with patients, and let them know you care for their well-being. The things you should not do include making patients wait in line, having them fill out a bunch of information, and sending them nonstop emails that are not personalized to their needs.

This is why I’ve observed some digital health companies struggle: In order to be successful, you must go further to personalize. Health issues are on a case-by-case basis. No two people are exactly the same. If companies start taking a generalized approach to someone’s health, that person might simply go elsewhere. In my experience, people want answers, connection and a sense of relief. Chronic illnesses are tough to handle, so make sure the service you’re providing makes things a bit easier.

Focus on results and healing.

This takes me to my next tip: Focus on results and healing. This is the biggest barrier I’ve seen in some digital health companies that wanted to focus on self-service. From my perspective, this model isn’t always the most effective, unless the company has a total focus on helping its audience.

Patients want to see results. They want to get better, and they want to have more good days. If you are not on board with their goals, then you likely won’t be successful in helping them. I’ve worked with many companies in the health space that wanted to create a simple app for a big problem. In theory, this idea is a good one. But the more you are able to look into how to actually get someone from where they currently are to where they want to be with their health, the more likely you are to create a successful service.

Entrepreneurs can go about this through their revenue model and focusing more on the customer’s results. I recommend establishing an initial group of people who will receive your service or product for very little or no cost at all. Then, focus on getting them the results they want. Once you’re able to do so, you can try selling your product or service to a bigger market.

Focus on aligning your goals with your patients’.

I believe when we disregard the whole system and only look at different symptoms, the root cause of someone’s illness is not addressed. I think as a consumer, the biggest thing people want is to feel like the best versions of themselves; they don’t want to be given the runaround for being able to achieve that goal.

As long as your company’s goals and your patients’ goals are on the same page, you will have a better understanding of your target audience. As an entrepreneur in the digital health space, you want to think about the most efficient way to get someone to feel like the best version of themselves.

Digital services are changing the way people go about their health, and the coronavirus has accelerated the trend toward telehealth options. But what’s important for entrepreneurs in this space to remember is that patients want to see better versions of themselves and live their best lives. How will you help them achieve that?

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