The virtual health business has continued to see a boom after COVID-19 hit. Like every other sector, it has adapted to the growing need for technology to deliver health services to people as conveniently as possible.
With the rise of contactless methods in delivering bespoke service, bringing it online is an in-thing for every business-conscious entrepreneur the world over. Virtual reality, cloud computing, the internet of things, and the long-standing telemedicine/healthcare are amongst the disruptive trends taking over the digital space.
Consumer behavior has likewise changed. Before now, telehealth had a low adoption rate, which was used primarily by those who were unable to access healthcare easily.
But after COVID-19 happened, people were conditioned to adopt telemedicine platforms.
In 2020, Deloitte reported that doctors started to use virtual healthcare technologies more frequently to communicate with patients, conduct physician-to-physicians consultations, administer remote care monitoring and coaching.
In Singapore, the Ministry of Health (MOH) reported that the use of telemedicine rose throughout 2020, amidst the Circuit Breaker period, while in lockdown.
According to Market Intelligence, since the introduction of telehealth to Singapore, only 1,947 patients have used the service between 2017 and early 2020. But by January 2021, 36,000 patients had used video consultation to seek medical health.
Telehealth is here to stay
Even though the old ways of in-person visits may return because of vaccination exercises, Mckinsey projects that “76% of consumers are likely or moderately likely to use a telehealth service moving forward”. It is safe to say that healthcare is forever transformed.
Interestingly, market research firm Fortune Business Insights forecasts the Telehealth market size to be worth $266.8 billion by 2026.
If you want a piece of the pie, you shouldn’t ignore the potential business opportunity this opens to you. This guide will give useful tips to help you start your digital healthcare business.
What is telemedicine?
Telemedicine enables patients and healthcare providers to ‘meet’ using secure telecommunications technology. There are several providers that have healthcare apps that simplify the process even more.
Telemedicine is a term that refers to how doctors connect with patients with the help of technology without a physical meet-up. It uses phone calls, video chats, emails, text messages, and other familiar technological tools. It is also sometimes called telehealth, digital medicine, e-health, or m(mobile)-health.
Specifically, telehealth is broader and involves other non-clinical services, such as administrative to medical education and even training.
The World Health Organization lists “Health promotion, public health functions, and surveillance” as part of what telehealth offers.
Now that you understand the nuances, it’s also equally important to decide how you intend to practice telemedicine. There are two types: synchronous and asynchronous.
Synchronous uses “live video-conferencing,” which provides a “two-way audiovisual link between a patient and a care provider.”
Essentially, both parties need to be present at the same time. Communication and interaction occur in real-time. Noah and Zoey are Singapore based typical examples of telemedicine startups that adopt the synchronous method.
Asynchronous telemedicine (remote monitoring)
Asynchronous is a “store-and-forward video-conferencing,” In this case, medical data is acquired online and transmitted to a specialist or consultant who assesses it offline.
Preliminary steps to take to set up a digital health business
Find a niche
You can’t possibly offer everything. For a start, pick one or two health services you want to sell. To do this, identify what you are enthusiastic about, what problem needs your solution, decide what is profitable and test your idea.
It would also help to research your competitors and potential customers to get the answer you need.
Identify your target audience and segment them
Your target audience is people that are likely to use your product. These are the people you want to provide value for. Afterward, each segment is based on:
Intent: What are they specifically looking to buy from you
Interest: Things that they enjoy doing
Location: Where you can find them, both offline and online
Find your value proposition
What is unique about your service? Identify what separates you from competitors. This could be anything but has to be valuable to your potential customer pain points. Could it be the pricing, user experience, or customer service?
Find your unique selling proposition by listing down what your product offers and how it benefits your audience.
Have an end-to-end market strategy in place
How do you want to reach your customers? Where can you find them online and offline? What channels will you use to reach out to them? Website, online chats, messaging, social media?
An end-to-end marketing strategy covers different channels and campaigns and must account for these questions. You need to identify these multiple channels and determine how to reach people on these various channels.
Creating a positive customer relation starts from knowing the best ways to find your customers and the best way to get across your message. To get the right message to the right person, you need to understand your customer journey.
Sketch what you want your product to look like
It doesn’t have to be perfect. Put all the ideas down so that you don’t forget them. You are a healthcare startup and will need to create software that gives the best patient experience.
Having an idea of what you want in the software or app will guide developers appropriately.
Determine a ballpark figure of how much profit you intend to make for each telehealth solution. Chances are you are providing different teleconsultations. Will you want a uniform price, or should the pricing vary? These are questions to consider.
Make a checklist of all the resources you need and see which you already have and need to get. They include software, finance, infrastructure, consultants, specialists, good tech support and telemedicine platform, necessary partners and stakeholders, or an outsourced team in place.
Make an estimated amount of what needs to be spent. It is best to make an overestimated budget to account for inflation and other additional expenses you may have missed.
Your telehealth platform
Your platform should meet the following requirements:
Adopt a secure platform to ensure the safe processing of private information. According to ZDnet, “cyber-attacks can cost Asia-Pacific healthcare organizations up to US$23.3 million in estimated economic losses” So, aside from protecting your customers, you also need to protect yourself.
Your platform has to suit the experience and service you hope to deliver to your customers. Consider if it has all the necessary features in place to serve the value you have promised to give.
Think about governmental regulations and telemedicine guidelines in the country where you operate. There are also data exchange and security standards you must follow.
Functionality and usability
Your platform should be intuitive such that patients can engage in self-service without getting confused. Make sure it is simple and solves the problem. Discard any unnecessary features that may confuse users.
Tech support and robustness
A good telemedicine platform should accommodate and process workloads coming from thousands of visits without a glitch. And if there is a glitch, you should have the necessary support capable of responding promptly to avoid a lag.
Two things to make you succeed in your digital health business (read as telemedicine)
Invest in big data and web analytics
Data helps you deliver predictive healthcare which can help you deliver a more personalized experience. For instance, with data aggregated, you can give healthy lifestyle recommendations to your customers.
This helps you focus on a customer-oriented approach and convinces your patients that you put them first.
Collaboration over competition
Collaboration helps to advance your growth and deliver tasks more effectively. Outsource what needs to be outsourced. Hire a specialist if you need one. Collaborate with other small businesses if you think they have what you need to improve your customer experience.
Collaboration helps you find a better and cost-effective approach to a problem. You also increase your expertise because you can access skills and knowledge that you lack in-house.
Launching a digital healthcare business is a feat with so many uncertainties like that with every tech business. It is important to aim for a lean start-up to address these uncertainties.
It entails that you start small with the basic features so that you can stay on your budget and launch as quickly as possible. Starting small will help you test your business idea based on customer feedback. Feedback helps you to improve and elaborate on future product development.
An initial MVP launch will also save you loads of money and time if the business idea fails.
Article made possible by Amaka. Amaka is a content strategist at ofnoah.com. She has been working in social media and content marketing for five years. She specializes in the health, tech, innovation, and travel sectors. When she is not writing, you will find her teaching math, and trying new recipes, and listening to science fiction audiobooks.