Market analyzers expect the total digital health market to surpass $379 billion by 2024: an increase of over $150 billion since 2014. Yet as new digital health companies enter the market, many find that this expanding field is as fiercely competitive as ever.
This aggressiveness is exacerbated by a number of factors unique to the health tech sector, two of which play a large role in hindering broad market success: an increased and ever-changing regulatory process, coupled with a complex and inconsistent payer-consumer framework.
To effectively market in the digital health market requires a strategic and tenacious development and marketing plan. Distinguishing a target market audience — i.e. payer versus consumer-focused — is a primary and critical step in this process. While both avenues present unique challenges and opportunities, payer-focused strategies must navigate additional obstacles to penetrate the health tech market.
The most commonly cited challenge to health technology implementation is a lack of interoperability with existing healthcare workflows. Many medical professionals are unwilling to take on new medical technologies that are incompatible with current systems, or those that require additional and extensive training. While neither the FDA nor ONC have developed interoperable standards, creating frameworks capable of adjusting to existing services remains key to addressing these concerns. Effectively demonstrating this capability is necessary in a market environment that has become increasingly hostile to incompatible technologies.
In marketing to medical professionals, digital health companies must also exhibit a strong portfolio of clinical support. In an interview with MedCity News, David Gregory–Healthcare Consulting Leader with consulting firm Baker Tilly Virchow Krause– advised digital health tech companies to invest in various detailed clinical research, stating: “Ultimately, you should be prepared to explain the clinical utility for your product because if you can’t, it’s a deal breaker. It would be a mistake for the digital health sector, in general, to underappreciate the need for evidence.”
The FDA has recently introduced various regulatory changes for digital health technologies. A key adjustment is the Pre-Cert Pilot Program: an initiative intended to “promote a more efficient framework for the review of safe and effective digital health innovations.” The program establishes a pathway through which software technologies can be evaluated and tested in a personalized and streamlined fashion. Still in its pilot phase, the program is one of many recent and forthcoming processes that health developers and marketers must learn to navigate. Staying informed of the continually changing approval processes and regulations is essential to maintaining credibility when marketing to medical payers.