Tuesday, January 11, 2011


Last night I attended an MIT Enterprise Forum event titled, “What Does Telehealth Say about Technology Adoption?”

The panelists were:
  1. Dr. Adam Darkins (Veterans Health Administration) – he was a neurosurgeon then switched to IT in healthcare.  He’s led the implementation of nation’s largest home-based health monitoring system which has improved care for 46000 chronic-condition patients.  They plan to get to 92000 patients next year.
  2. Naomi Fried, PhD (Children's Hospital Boston) – she worked at Kaiser focusing on innovation and has recently joined Children’s to accelerate their market expansion into telehealth with the key goal of expanding their market share in tasks unique to pediatrics.
  3. Bruce Lehman (LehmanMillet) – totally focused on healthcare marketing.
  4. Dr. Steven Locke, (Harvard Medical School, president Veritas Health Solutions) – he’s a practicing psychiatrist bringing to market remote depression treatment.
  5.  Edwin Simcox, Jr. (AT&T ForHealth) – he joined ATT to help in the formation of the ForHealth division.
Some of my observations:

Telehealth / remote heatlh / eHealth / etc will take off when a reimbursement technique is accepted.  While these solutions often reduce costs and improve quality (particularly consistency in delivery), they have not been adopted on a widespread basis because payment processes are not globally in place.  

Marketing and selling into healthcare is a long road – healthcare buyers are the most conservative in the market because they have been trained to work within well-defined “guardrails” (first, do no harm) and they perceive that they are “all knowing”.  On the other hand, once you’ve secured a presence in healthcare, you can grow that position in a well defined manner.  Bruce Lehman offered up a new “4P’s” (the classic marketing 4Ps are Product, Price, Placement, Promotion):
  1. Protect – Limit exposure to widen opportunity  - once you get your product into healthcare, protect it, protect it, protect it!
  2. Promise – Sharpen your vision through the eyes of your users - define the specific capabilities and outcomes delivered by the solution
  3. Proselytize – Find followers who will lead - you’ve got to get the word out in a healthcare-acceptable manner
  4. Propel – Focus and fire (When the time is right, GO BIG, or go home….) 
Dr. Locke shared that the “motivational interview” technique is proven to be as effective as medication for depression – but medical students don’t learn the technique in large part because they know that the market situation they’re moving into is bound by the “7 minute” patient/doctor window.  And they don’t get reimbursed effectively.  

Because the developing world doesn’t have our brick ‘n mortar investments (if you take the patients out of the hospital, you still need to cover the costs of the beds), developing countries are more likely to adopt telehealth techniques.

Telehealth holds the promise of shifting the healthcare delivery paradigm from today’s doctor-centric to patient-centric.  This refers to the non-acute care scenario (when you schedule an appointment to visit the doctor, travel there, wait, wait some more, get seen for 7 minutes or less etc).

Another way of segmenting the healthcare market is into the patient’s health status:  Well, At-Risk, Chronic, and Acute.  This approach can make it easier to market products in a more appropriate manner.  The offerings of American Well are an illustration of this market segmentation.

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