2 Medical Entrepreneurs Taking Marketing by Storm

April 30, 2016
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For decades, the medical market was a relatively steady place. Patients would visit their family doctors, with two or even three generations sometimes visiting the same physician over the course of several years. Doctors owned their own practices and made the bulk of their patients’ healthcare decisions, and patients simply trusted that those decisions were right.

For decades, the medical market was a relatively steady place. Patients would visit their family doctors, with two or even three generations sometimes visiting the same physician over the course of several years. Doctors owned their own practices and made the bulk of their patients’ healthcare decisions, and patients simply trusted that those decisions were right.

In recent years, however, the healthcare marketplace has begun evolving at a rapid pace.  Hospitals are buying physician practices to create integrated systems and coordinate care among physicians, hospitals, and other healthcare providers, transferring the final purchasing decisions for medical services and products from the doctor’s hands into the hands of a committee that oversees hospital purchasing decisions. Between 2012 and 2014, the percentage of primary care physicians who were employed by hospitals doubled from 10% to 20%. Meanwhile, patients are doing their homework beforehand and taking a more active role in their healthcare, with 72% of internet users reporting that they looked online for health information over a 12-month period and one in four patients saying they read consumer-generated reviews online before booking an appointment with a physician.

In order to keep up with this shifting market, medical providers must shift their marketing techniques accordingly. As new technologies and services hit the marketplace, they bring with them new ideas for how to reach the financial decision makers in this new environment. Entrepreneurs in the medical industry become pioneers and exemplars in medical marketing as well. Below, we will take a look at some examples of success in this evolving environment.

Sean Duffy

After Sean Duffy walked away from both Harvard Medical School and his job at Google, he decided to combine his passions for medicine and technology to launch Omada Health. Omada promotes “digital therapeutics,” claiming to provide and enhance behavioral therapy through online channels, dynamic programs, and social networking. Omada’s Prevent program, a 16-week series of courses and physical therapy monitored around the clock by a personal health coach, offers a simple, guided path to wellness from the comfort of the participant’s own home. Through regular phone calls, the health coach offers encouragement and works with each participant individually to develop lifestyle changes to improve the participant’s health.

Meanwhile, the interactive curriculum guides patients through a series of courses that adapt to each patient’s particular needs, teaching them how to manage their social, physical, and psychological well-being and reinforcing these lessons with games and other activities. Omada matches participants with an online peer group as well. These peer groups work together through a custom social network where they offer each other encouragement and can report their progress to each other for additional accountability. After the initial 16 weeks, patients continue to receive support to ensure that they maintain their new, healthy habits. To round out the program, participants receive access to smart apps and technology to help them track their health. 

Originally marketing to individual patients, Mr. Duffy and his co-founders shifted their efforts to private companies and health insurance providers, bringing higher volumes of patients in with each contract. Since its inception, the Prevent program has received positive results from several third-party studies published in The Diabetes Educator, The Journal of Medical Internet Research and The Annals of Behavioral Medicine. By participating in these studies performed by well-established and unbiased experts, and then showcasing the positive results, Omada boosts its own credibility and positions its offerings as a proven solution to improve patient health.

Luke Kervin

Often, though they recognize the need for marketing, healthcare providers simply don’t have the expertise to devote to marketing. Luke Kervin is the founder and CEO of PatientPop, a tech startup that offers an all-in-one practice growth platform for healthcare providers. Most medical technology focuses on advancements that help doctors treat conditions, but technology is also helping physicians with the business side of their practices. Mr. Kervin’s web marketing platform gives doctors more quality time for their patients.

Early in his career, Kervin worked in eCommerce, building a digital marketing platform on which media publications could create an online marketplace to sell featured products. His work in eCommerce inspired him to create PatientPop, basing his business model on Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems to build relationships between patients and physicians and make patients the central object of care. The mission at PatientPop is to help medical practices grow by empowering physicians to spend more digital time with patients, forging stronger relationships with those patients and boosting the likelihood that those patients would return. This is made possible by a unique, multifunctional marketing platform that is distinctly designed for the healthcare industry. 

Before founding PatientPop, Kervin noticed a pattern among healthcare providers, independent of their specialties: every physician recognized that creating and maintaining an online marketing strategy was critical to success, but they were frustrated at the lack of customized solutions. Several individual software platforms existed to manage digital PR, website optimization, and SEO, and navigating the resulting smorgasbord to piece together a single working solution was extremely expensive and time consuming for healthcare providers. Kervin recognized a void in the market and created the first all-in-one business solution that included tools to drive patient acquisition, retention marketing, reputation management, and business metrics and analytics.

The healthcare market is changing, and it will continue to change. If a new company is unable to keep a close eye on the trajectory of market trends and fit their marketing to their audience, that company will not be around for long. By keeping an eye out for patterns in the market, however, fresh entrepreneurs entering the marketplace can target both their products and their marketing messages to the current demands of their potential customers and ensure that they will be around for a long time to come.


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