Blog | 8/10/2016

New Digital Health Solutions are Hot; but Success is Still Grounded in Fundamental Rules of Commercialization

by Bruno Nardone

I was honored to moderate a panel of distinguished speakers recently on the subject of Commercialization Strategies for Successful Digital Health Solutions. The event was hosted by MassBio in their Cambridge MA offices.  Not surprisingly on a lovely summer day, with a hot topic, we drew a great audience, and top notch guest speakers. If interested you can watch a taped version of the event here.

As a strategy consultant, I am always looking for new pearls of wisdom to share with clients, and particularly in a space like digital health which has seen investment and innovation outpace most market segments in health for some time, I was hoping to find a few. Interestingly while we heard a number of fantastic vignettes about novel applications of technology, two themes that reverberated throughout the speakers’ comments were that success comes from knowing the market and your target customers’ needs really well. This should not come as a surprise given our commercialization theme, but it was refreshing to hear because we unfortunately also hear too often that huge investments have been made in solution technology that were just off the mark. And upon probing, we often find out that decision makers underestimated how much they really understood about how their solution would be received and used.

For some, the seductive quality of the latest technology solutions or being first to market tempts them into believing "if we build it they (the customers) will come". However, without thorough assessment of the markets you want to impact and the intended solution users, this approach is analogous to flying blind.

Thankfully, there are structured approaches to understanding the market and customer needs for solutions that can provide organization innovators and leaders piece of mind that they’re on target before committing resources. There are three foundational steps to assessment of this kind that we heard our panelists enforce:

1)     Align with subject matter experts who understand your commercialization goals and will give you honest feedback and guidance. This could of course come from hiring subject matter experts, but it can also come from investors or partners who have aligned incentives.

2)    Get out and talk to intended users to understand their needs and the environment in which your solution will be implemented.  This can be achieved through direct primary research efforts, and/or virtually by distilling outputs from research reports or similar vehicles.  If the latter, be sure they are answering your strategic questions specifically or be very selective in how you leverage the information.

3)    Make sure your value propositions are perfectly clear and address a pressing market need or desire. Listening to the stories of successful pioneers in a fast moving market can be beneficial to anyone working on bringing new solutions to market. In our recent experience with digital health innovators we were reminded that while we push the boundaries of technology, it is still critical to make sure that we remember to stick with basic principles of commercialization strategy. Kudos to our friends at MassBio for providing a platform for us to reflect on how best to complement innovation with effective business strategy. Bruno Nardone is a Vice President at Health Advances.  

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