When you decide to home in on an idea in the healthcare space, it’s hard to determine where to start these days. There are record-breaking wildfires causing frightening air quality indexes, constantly updated COVID-19 information coming from various sources, and telehealth trying to keep up with the increased demand in remote health services. This is all while healthcare costs continue to rise, services seem cluttered and confusing, and quality unclear and indeterminable.
With this in mind, it is important for companies operating in the healthcare world to be able to take certain steps necessary for staying and innovating in today’s space.
1. Focus on What Consumers Need in This Current Environment
People are rethinking their health and placing greater emphasis on self-care, health, and wellness during this time. Healthcare costs in the United States have increased over the years, especially for those without insurance. Moreover, with economic instability, consumers are becoming more budget-conscious as they continue to use online searches, research, and reviews for choosing healthcare products and services. Put simply, increased healthcare costs plus decreased wages equals more initiative to find quality services at reasonable costs.
According to the Health Cost Institute, between 2014 and 2018, spending per person has increased at an average annual rate of 4.3 percent to $5,892, and out-of-pocket expenses have increased to $907 per person, an increase of 14.5 percent over five years. Nationally, spending growth increased an average of 15 percent.
People with employer coverage admitted for COVID-19 treatment could face out-of-pocket costs over $1,300, and often receive surprise medical bills even when they go to in-network hospitals. When it comes to the uninsured, it is even more imperative to have useful information around healthcare pricing for patients.
In the current environment, there is also a considerable need in the market for an efficient and transparent way of analyzing medical care and procedures in terms of quality. This is especially the case as consumers are doing more of their own research — placing healthcare into their own hands. Additionally, with the impact of COVID-19 on changes in service, it’s important for potential customers to be aware of any shifts in healthcare offerings.
Focus on what is most important, relevant, and/or interesting to consumers in the current environment. What makes your startup relevant in today’s environment, right now? And if you don’t know, ask. At Ilekun Health, for instance, we researched the market heavily to home in on our target consumers and then recruited them for user interviews.
2. Keep Up-to-Date on the Latest Trends
In the healthcare space, there are constant changes and it’s important to stay on top of the trends to best help your product and customers.
For example, Ilekun provides information about various healthcare providers, with an initial focus on cosmetic procedures. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons reported that $16.7 billion was spent on cosmetic procedures in 2019. Furthermore, despite COVID-19, interest in these cosmetic procedures have not decreased.
Based on reporting by Refinery29, at certain places such as Arcadia Wellness Center, they are even seeing a surge in requests for Botox around the forehead and eyes as face masks cover the lower half of the face. In Miami, in order to comply with social distancing, offices are “open” — via drive-through.
Being that botox and other cosmetic procedures are elective, these trends indicated to us that elective procedures with high average prices usually lead to higher out-of-pocket costs for patients. Thus it is more significant than ever to encourage transparency around these services. As such, we are positioning our product as a transparency solution for cosmetic procedures.
Overall, as a startup, it is critical to keep updated on the latest trends in the space so that your company is keeping your product as relevant as possible to customers. Some ways to do this include subscribing to industry journals, market research databases, and news sources.
3. Stay Connected With Others in the Realm You Are Operating in
Are you making sure you’re staying as connected as possible — with partners, competitors, users — particularly in this new, virtual world?
Virtual conferences, webinars, newsletters, and company mailing lists are all examples of how to stay in touch with other companies, professionals, and users in the world you’re building in. Doing this can help your company not only learn what industry and consumer priorities are, but also share those ideas and questions to better the system as a whole.
It’s more key than ever to be able to connect with clients or potential clients at every step of the way so that they feel you’re with them throughout the process or journey of your service or product. This, along with offering many other insights, will also be helpful when it comes to building a company and raising awareness of best practices.
4. If Needed, Efficiently Pivot Based on What You’ve Learned
Yelp initially focused on email-requested reviews, and quickly found that users were more interested in a buried link in their emails and submitting unsolicited reviews. With this new insight on what consumers were more curious about, they decided to purchase a database of businesses and start a brand new site focused on allowing users to submit these unsolicited reviews instead.
Instagram started off as “Burbn” where users could check in to locations, make plans, earn points, and post pictures. However, through their analytics, they figured out that users seemed to actually only be interested in using the photo-sharing features. Through that realization, they pivoted into the Instagram we all know today.
For Ilekun Health, pivoting may look like concentrating on mental health and substance abuse as the next phase of services to prioritize. As a result of the pandemic, there has been an increase in demand for mental-health services, especially virtually. According to a 2019 study by Ohio State University, individuals with behavioral health concerns were more likely to go out-of-network to find health providers and end up paying more out-of-pocket costs.
By focusing on consumer needs, keeping abreast of developments in your industry, and staying in touch with consumers and partners, you will generate a holistic feedback loop of real-time data. Be sure to keep tabs on these data streams so that, when patterns appear, you can spot them and exploit them to pivot your initial offering to gain product-market fit and further your company’s growth.
Innovation in the healthcare space, albeit complicated, is essential. To stay in this space, companies need to innovate in the most effective ways possible.