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Healthcare shifts to a direct-to-consumer business model — Part 1


Who Is the New Competition?

In the last two years, the healthcare industry has been shaken up in areas it’s never had to think about before. Years of surging patient costs and pharmaceutical prices have led to an outcry for transparency from providers and reform from government officials. Meanwhile, healthcare startups are appearing from every direction, creating solutions for patients and taking a piece of the healthcare pie away from the mainstream market. Technology is changing how consumers fill their healthcare needs, and patients have more options today than they ever have before.

Providers are left scratching their heads, trying to make sense of the push and pull coming from every direction. But there’s one constant that seems to exist — most of the change in healthcare seems to be tipping the scales in favor of the consumer, and the providers (as well as insurance companies) will have to start catering to what patients want out of their healthcare providers. In the traditionally unshakable world of healthcare, the shift to a consumer-driven business model is the new stranger-danger.

Who is the competition for traditional healthcare?

As usual, major providers are competing with each other, especially when it comes to outpatient services. But there’s new competition emerging. Gargantuan companies like Amazon and Apple are choosing to take a nibble out of the 3 trillion dollar industry. Other direct to consumer brands are popping up with enormous VC backing. On the surface, some of these companies seem harmless enough. What’s a little startup really going to do to compete with a billion-dollar hospital anyway?

Well, consumers have quickly become accustomed to conveniences that traditional healthcare providers can’t seem to keep up with. Today, women struggling with fertility are taking their concerns to digital communities for support and buying technology to track fertility before they ever see a doctor.

Men dealing with male-pattern baldness or erectile dysfunction no longer have to make embarrassing appointments to see a specialist. They can simply hop onto hims to request recommendations for physicians and be automatically connected to a network of providers who can prescribe what he wants straight from the company that provides it.

Teledocs are a must in this business model, and they’re popping up as their very own entity as well. We recently conducted a qualitative survey for a healthcare client which concluded that an average of 87 percent of patients would use a teledoctor (via email or text) to diagnose a non-life-threatening medical condition. The direct to consumer approach easily solves a patient’s problems with just a few clicks on their mobile device.

Companies like Amwell and Talkspace provide full-service psychologists to patients, with TV ad budgets that allow them to feature the likes of Olympic swimming legend, Michael Phelps. Capsule cuts the middle man out of prescriptions by allowing doctors to e-prescribe medication and have it delivered right to your doorstep on the same day.

This is the new trend in healthcare — pairing the healthcare service with the product or simply providing the service directly to the consumer via the web.

So, if you’re a traditional healthcare provider, you might just get cut right out of the equation. It’s time to figure out how to stay relevant in an ever-changing landscape. We have some ideas.

Make friends with the competition

Keep your enemies closer. Maybe they’ll become your friends? Some of these healthcare startups are legitimately science-backed and HIPAA friendly. They employ respected scientists and physicians. So why not partner with some of this cutting-edge technology that adds value to your brand?

Why couldn’t your doctors be part of that equation? Take a look at some of the technology startups that have emerged and seriously evaluate if any of them would pair well with your business goals. For instance, if there’s a solution to a consistent patient problem in pediatrics and there’s a device or application that addresses that issue — by partnering with that app, you could make a patient’s life easier, and that’s a big win they will share with others.

Partnerships could expand your hospital’s reach in technology and also stir up some positive press. This might be a controversial idea, but we think it’s the future.

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Expand your healthcare system's front doors through email and video visits.

So, yeah. The healthcare industry is growing and changing fast. But there are ways to keep up.

In part two of this series on Medium, we’ll take an in-depth look at how can you compete with direct to consumer brands. We’ll discuss everything from how to leverage your advertising budget to building your brand and everything in between. Check it out.

  • Healthcare
  • Healthcare pricing transparency
  • Healthcare Technology
  • Advertising for healthcare