How to build digital health products like a startup

The digital health market today

As smartphones, wearables and vital sign sensors reach technical maturity, it’s becoming increasingly possible to accurately monitor and manage health without a trip to the doctor’s office.

That’s big news for patients, customers and healthcare practitioners alike, and has ramifications far beyond Silicon Valley:

Europe is predicted to be the world’s largest mobile health market in 2018, with a value of €7.1b and annual growth of 61.6%.

But despite technological progress and favourable financial outlooks, fewer than 30% of US healthcare practitioners are actively recommending digital health technologies to their patients and only 13% are actually using them in their practice₂. This means that the consumerization of digital health technology is largely being driven by users themselves.

But with over 325,000 health apps available to download₃ and some 200 more being released each day, the choice for consumers is overwhelming…

Despite the volume of services on the market, only 2% of digital health apps have more than 500,000 active monthly users₂ and nearly half of all health app downloads were driven by just 41 apps (each had over 10 million downloads)³.

Why are so few digital health services winning traction?

Many businesses are scrambling to build the next killer app or implement AI, chatbots or wearables in their services. But our view is that they’re funding technology rather than solutions, investing heavily in transient technologies without truly understanding the needs of their users.

As with most emerging markets, it’s startups that are leading the way (like Oscar, Headspace and Zocdoc). Ultimately, these are the players who have been able to get closer to understanding the needs of their users and implement digital health technology in the most effective way. They don’t just promise to improve lives, but actually deliver on that promise for millions of people every day.

So far, many larger healthcare organisations have struggled to follow their lead. But larger organisations can successfully apply the same startup-oriented approach to building great products. What’s more, their scale, reach and resources give them a real opportunity to change the industry—improving health outcomes, reducing healthcare costs and creating new business streams.

We’ve been studying this problem and think we have some of the answers. We’ve put together a white paper outlining how you too can start building digital health products that win the hearts, minds and business of your customers.

Deloitte: How digital technology is transforming health and social care, 2016.
IQVIA Institute for human data science: ‘The Growing Value of Digital Health’, 2017.
Research 2 Guidance: mHealth App Economics 2017 Current Status and Future Trends in Mobile Health: ‘How digital intruders are taking over the healthcare market’, 2017.