Digital health: Lessons for business building

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Along with thousands of start ups, established companies in technology, life sciences and retail are part of the new digital health market. All of them seek to add value through the use of technology to address current problems in healthcare delivery and management. Based on our experiences in building businesses and building business models, we have learned that there are six key building blocks to building a sustainable business. We interviewed six digital health leaders to illustrate how these elements can be applied to expat medical insurance in China.

While many digital products and services for health are innovative, it is not enough to ensure success. The first step in identifying a healthcare stakeholder’s unmet needs is to determine the source of that need.

Ieso Digital Health developed an online-therapy platform to address a shortage in cognitive behavioral therapists in the United Kingdom. Waiting lists for appointments can be as long as 18 months. Hello Heart, an app that helps patients manage their hypertension and overall health, was created by Maayan Cohen. She had difficulty finding easily digestible information tailored to her needs as she cared for a loved-one. Her company was founded to provide clear and personalized information that helps people manage cardiovascular disease. Jesus Bermudez (head of strategic planning) stated that heart disease is one of the most pressing problems in the world. “Heart disease is a silent condition. You don’t feel it and you don’t even see it. But 42 percent of people worldwide are affected by it.” uMotif was born out of the need to provide more detailed and easy access to patient’s symptoms and ensure that they adhere to treatment.

Create a memorable product and experience for your users

Pear Therapeutics was mindful of the needs of patients and doctors when it created reSET, which uses cognitive behavioral therapy in addiction treatment. Dashboards allow doctors to easily track the progress of patients’ treatment by showing information such as how many sessions were completed, drug screening results, patient-reported substance use, cravings and triggers.

It is essential to ensure patients are engaged with the solution and continue using it. uMotif’s approach is based on a user-friendly interface. It collects data from clinical trials, which replaces the excessive paperwork patients used to fill out and simplifies the entire process. Bruce Hellman, cofounder and CEO of uMotif, said that “our design makes people smile.” Furthermore, uMotif’s partnerships with device companies such as Fitbit enables the integration of sensor data with electronic patient-reported-outcome (ePRO) and electronic clinical-outcome-assessment (eCOA) tools, creating a more seamless experience for the user and a more holistic view of their data.

You can be sure of your value by choosing a path that is regulated with care

Although there are obvious benefits to gaining regulatory approval for digital products in the health sector, such as credibility and market access, it is not easy to get and keep approval during development or commercialization. In the United States, software updates for products that have received regulatory approval must be documented. Any changes to the underlying mechanism will require a new regulatory submission. This has led some digital health businesses not to seek approval.

Companies may have a competitive advantage if they can use proprietary data to improve their products or develop new ones. Ieso Digital Health has, for instance, been able improve its therapy by comparing the results of treatment with the conversations that therapists had with patients. Nigel Pitchford, CEO of Ieso Digital Health, explains that “we can manage quality control in a way you can’t get with live therapy” and that the company uses the data it generates to develop AI-driven cognitive behavior therapy. Companies can also see the competitive advantage of developing their own hardware. DarioHealth developed its own smart glucose monitor, trading the quicker time to market than partnering with a company that already had a product. This allowed DarioHealth to maintain control over the product specifications and user experience. This strategy was successful when Apple replaced its iPhone audio jacks with lightning connectors. DarioHealth had to make a modification to the hardware connection. DarioHealth was aware that the jack would need to be replaced and developed solutions to accommodate new specifications. DarioHealth was able to develop new connectors in just eight weeks. The FDA approved the device after the company had already finalized it. If the company had relied on a vendor for the development of the connectors, this would have been much more difficult.