So you think you know your customers?

Digital health is of course a technology rich sector which is set to grow, driven by the ever rising tide of an ageing population and chronic disease. We have ever more sophisticated technology to help deliver solutions but as an industry, are we catering for our customers?

You may be developing a solution to sell to an organisation that delivers professional care services and they will of course have their own needs to fulfil but the services they provide will be to an end user, who may well be cared for by family or friends. So whilst the needs of the purchaser are vitally important, a solution that ignores the needs of the cared for and their social support network is unlikely to be widely adopted, therefore the value to the purchaser will be lost.

In the rapidly evolving consumer health space, the term customer (whether purchaser or not) expands to cover a wide range of stakeholders that include individuals, their carers, insurers, regulators, healthcare professionals and even healthcare policy makers.  The relationships between the parties are undoubtedly complex, frequently synergistic and occasionally tense.

This makes for an interesting product /service development process in which customer needs are juxtaposed and trade-offs are made. If we take the case of medication adherence, a trending topic if there ever was one, all parties concerned would like the end user/cared-for to take their medicine in the right dose at the right time, but would the person being cared-for perceive a digitally enabled adherence system which remotely monitors their intake (to provide reassurance to the care-givers) a digitally-enabled spy? And, in this era of big data, what safeguards are there to ensure that the information is not used for other purposes?

These scenarios reinforce the fact that successful innovation in any market is dependent on adequately understanding customer needs. The trick is develop solutions that address needs that are shared by several parties, while taking account of the other factors that may affect the successful take up of the solution by all “customers” involved. These factors may be social (hearing aids don’t fit in with the image I want to portray), behavioural (yes, I know broccoli is good for me but I really don’t like it), financial, (how much???) technological (not quite sure which button to press on my wearable). A solution that ignores these is, at best, a partial solution, at worst the digital health equivalent of New Coke.


Authors: Tanya Suarez, CEO, BluSpecs & Steven Dodsworth, CEO, D Health (