Medical Marketing Lessons from Successful Digital Health Companies

Digital health is the convergence of digital technologies with health, living, and society in order to enhance the efficiency of healthcare delivery and make medicines more personalised and precise.

That broad definition means it is not all about apps. The CES 2018 exhibition even included digital health products such as smart pillows, shoes, air quality sensors, modified ultrasound machines, and more.

“Digital health has changed way services are created, delivered and measured. It can really transform people’s lives and puts patients in the control seat for the first time,” says Dr Julian Hooper.

“New digital health products need to demonstrate that they have clinical efficacy, positive UX and UI, meet regulatory and quality standards, and commercial viability.”

There are many challenges for Australian digital health companies. They have to compete globally with other countries that are often faster to get to market. There are interoperability issues geographically and between public and private sectors, as well as legacy IT systems that often need to be accommodated.

Situation Analysis

A recent White Paper from ANDHealth (Australian National Digital Health), looked at the strengths, opportunities, constraints and barriers for the commercialisation of evidence-based digital health technologies. These technologies included:

  • Mobile health (mHealth)
  • Health information technology (IT)
  • Connected and wearable devices
  • Telehealth and telemedicine
  • Personalised and precision medicine

The report was based on roundtable talks with key digital health industry players including CSIRO, the Australian Digital Health Agency and MTPConnect, the growth centre for the MedTech and Pharma sector.

According to the white paper, the Australian digital health sector is ranked 4th in the world in biotechnology. It has over 500 med tech companies and generates over 11 billion Australian dollars annually.

Much of the report contains high-level discussions focusing on structural and macro-economic issues such as regulatory frameworks and reimbursement models.

Key Learnings from Digital Health Cases

Amongst the many recommendations made in the ANDHealth white paper, some of the more practical product development/marketing recommendations came from those featured as case studies.

ATMO gas capsule case study . Their advice? To “develop a communication strategy that will engage with traditional media to drive awareness and engagement”. Not only with consumers and investors, but also to “help prioritise and accelerate actions required within academic and research institutions.”

Sue Dafnius, CEO of Vitalic Medical  reinforced the value of co-creating products with your customers: “We have to keep checking our assumptions and make sure that the end-user and customer are involved in the identification of problems and the development of the solution.”

Good advice also came from Seer Medical who said: Ensure you have a clinical specialist in the field of the customer base you are targeting involved in product design and to champion your product” and “leverage existing MBS and PBS item numbers rather than create something that will require many years to be listed for reimbursement.”

Core Principles Apply

The disconnect between consumer demand and the logistical complexities to go to market can seem overwhelming. Digital Health in Australia is nascent but highly respected around the world. Success is not guaranteed, but many organisations have paved the way and changes are taking place to make the road smoother.

While it is yet to be recognised as a sector in its own right and has many challenges for operators, core marketing principles — from product development to distribution and communication strategy — apply now as much as ever. Wherever possible, co-create products with customers, use the simplest and most effective distribution strategies, communicate with all of your stakeholders in mind, including prospective customers, investors, government and media.

Danielle Spinks

Danielle Spinks

Writes about business & marketing strategy, psychology, and communication. | M. Marketing | BA Comms & Media

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