4 Product Decisions to Consider in Today’s Digital Health Market

Daniel Pluard

CEO
January 24, 2023

Overview

Technology is revolutionizing the healthcare and digital health market. It may be helpful to think of the change in phases. As the market has evolved and adapted during these shifts, keeping in mind the effects this can have on health tech products is essential.

The first phase, which began over 20 years ago, was the digitalization of medical records through implementing and adopting EMRs (Electronic Medical Records). These are enterprise or organizational-level applications. They are big, bulky systems that provide a level of customization but have constraints.

The second phase started in the last 5-10 years when the tech market discovered healthcare technology and innovation gaps and decided to pounce on the opportunity. The cloud made developing and building solutions accessible and affordable. As a market, we saw an influx of healthcare technology start-ups and heaps of VC and investor funding flow into the digital health market.

All hot trends eventually and naturally cool down, which is what seems to be occurring now. The new innovative products that provide value, improve provider efficiency, and help improve patient care will succeed, and the ones that don’t, well, we know what happens with those.

As a tech company, the product is the most critical asset to the business. That’s true for both the digital health market and any other industry. Here are four tips we have kept close when making product choices in a challenging and demanding healthcare and digital health market.

Core Value Delivery

The core value delivery should always be at the forefront. Intely delivers cost and time savings to other healthcare products and digital health companies through our no-code interoperability platform. Our mission is to reduce the barriers for other innovators to build solutions, integrate their products, and drive adoption to improve the healthcare system.

When product choices and design decisions come up, analyzing how they fit into the mission, the existing platform, and the core value is critical. The digital health market will ask for features of all types, which may not fit nicely into the solution. If this is the case, don’t hesitate to say “no” or “that is not currently on our product roadmap.”

The suggestion here is not to turn down an opportunity. User feedback and user-driven development are the best input for a tech or product company. But keeping focus is paramount. Suppose the solution solves many disparate problems and does not target a specific user group and problem. In that case, running the business is tricky, especially as a start-up. Development is mercurial and inefficient, marketing and sales are complicated and make no sense, and implementation is a mess. Keep the focus, and everybody will thank you.

Target User and Product Design

In the digital health market, it is common to have a few different types of users that access your product. You may have administrative and clinical users if the product is deployed at the enterprise level. If the product directly relates to the patient, providers and patients may need to access the product, which will require different experiences. Tech-enabled services layer healthcare delivery and healthcare technology products together.

All these models require a thoughtful product design to ensure users have positive experiences. Deciding on platforms is essential. Providers and administrative users are likelier to log in on a computer or tablet, while patients may almost always use a phone or mobile device. It’s also possible that the product incorporates devices such as wearables and medical equipment.

These characteristics must be clearly mapped out into user personas and user journeys so that the product can plan and design features. This will help create an integrated experience.

The user and product landscape will influence the success of the product monetization strategy. Products can be offered as a subscription, in a usage model, by the number of providers or patients that use it, and in other models. The target user and product will need to support the model. Intely offers a subscription model that tiers with features and scales with active connections. Commercialization and pricing strategy undoubtedly takes trial and error and must constantly be tuned for perfection.

Integration with Other Systems

Interoperability in the digital health market is hot and at the forefront of any user’s mind. With a myriad of different choices, making sure the product integrates tightly into existing systems and workflows is crucial. No user wants to log in to multiple systems when they are working.

The digital health market has more point solutions than ever before, requiring product decisions that unify sources of patient data. If the solution silos data, it will be a much harder sell, and adoption will likely be less than ideal. Actionable insight and real-time data are overused buzzwords. Still, the reality is that users, whether they are providers, patients, or admins, want the correct data without having to mine for it.

There are many types of infrastructure and platform decisions that can make this happen. One of the most critical is determining whether you want to build an integration layer or micro-services in-house or whether you want to partner with an existing solution that can help facilitate your interoperability strategy.

Developing a solution in-house can be appealing and may be a worthy long-term goal, but to get off the ground, focusing on your core value, and offloading data integration and interface work to a partner can be beneficial. Healthcare data and interfaces are unstandardized and require much effort to build and maintain. Having experts who are experienced in HL7, EDI, DICOM, and other formats and protocols can be a blessing.

Security & Data Privacy

We’ve listed this as the number four consideration, but this is probably the most important. There are two points of concern here. First, who will access the data, and how will they access it? Second, how can you show that your application is secure and protected?

The first consideration is a big one and involves thoughtfully architecting user and identity management. Many applications require roles and restrictions to secure access to patient data. Only users who need to see data should be able to access it. Making early product decisions to implement organizational-based access and role-based access controls will put a product in a good spot for implementation.

Understanding the SMART authorization framework is important for building an integrated application. This will help you determine the launch context (i.e., whether it will be launched as a standalone app or from an EHR) and the access scopes (i.e., read & write privileges to data).

The second consideration required by any product in the digital health market is security and compliance attestations. There are multiple frameworks, but the primary three that most customers consider are HIPAA, SOC2, and HITRUST. To be in consideration for enterprise deals, HIPAA and SOC2 are generally non-negotiable. HITRUST takes significantly longer to get, typically 18-24 months but it should be something to consider as it can help when selling and delivering applications to larger clients.

There are several other frameworks, such as PCI, ISO 27001, and more, that you may need to get depending on the specialization of your product. Finding a good security and compliance partner and audit company can help a product achieve these security milestones. At Intely, we got our HIPAA and SOC2 Type II attestation early. HITRUST is next.

Just be responsible and keep security and data privacy at the forefront of all product-related decisions. Run periodic tests, audit access, separate production data, and PHI, and have risk mitigation protocols in place.

Conclusion

Product management as a job is like living a healthy lifestyle. Decisions made today will feel good, but the real impact won’t be realized for quite a while, weeks, months, years or even decades. There will be temptation and attractive options everywhere, but they may not be in the best interest of immediate or long-term success. Making smart choices that entail forethought and evaluation most of the time is what matters. Mistakes and plateaus are bound to occur. Pushing through them will lead to success, especially in the digital health market and product space.

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