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10 Growth Strategies For A Telehealth Platform

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Today Telehealth is mainstream. Prominent healthcare organizations, as well as individuals, entrepreneurs, and institutions, are addressing the use of telehealth platforms for catering to patients through telehealth. While telehealth had remained on the verge of disruption, COVID provided the necessary push to bring Telehealth for everyone.

This has opened a new door of opportunity for Healthcare entrepreneurs, and telehealth launches have seen a steep rise in 2020.

telehealth_trend
Fig: Google Trends report on telehealth

As launching and building telehealth platforms becomes competitive, we share some of the tips and ideas that will help you plan to launch a telehealth platform.

In this blog, we will cover

  • Telehealth Business Model
  • Solving the marketplaces dilemma
  • Specific tips for growing a telehealth platform

Telehealth Business Model

Telehealth business models can be understood as a typical marketplace model where there are buyers and sellers and the platform acts as a means to connect both. Amazon and Airbnb are great examples of marketplaces.

The best part about marketplaces is the network effect. This means more buyers lead to more sellers, leading to more buyers, and so on; the cycle continues. Once such a system sets in, it becomes hard to compete and it creates a great advantage for a company.

Over time, as sellers build in reputation, profile, trust, safety, and decrease friction, the value is multifolds. In fact, at that point, the platform can be set for automatic growth, and the community itself could become self-managed and keep the growth up. At this time the business achieves growth through scalability, efficiency, and flexibility.

Launching a telehealth platform requires building 2 sides of the platform. On one side, you have to onboard the practitioners and on the other, the customer.

The problem is that neither would like to join the platform before they see the other.

This is the typical marketplace growth problem.

So how to capture this initial growth, we will cover in this blog.

Solving The Marketplace Dilemma- The Chicken and Egg Problem

During the initial phase of a marketplace, there is neither supply nor demand available. The problem is that one side cannot commit without the other. Hence, a marketplace entrepreneur has to find ways to manage the initial growth either through growing one side first or constraining the growth to a level where demand and supply ideally meet before taking it to the next level.

Fig: Different growth strategies for marketplace model

This is a snapshot from Lenny Rechitsky’s blog on Kick Starting and scaling marketplace.

In a snapshot, you can build a better foundation by following one of the strategies

1. Constraint growth – Primarily in offering or geography or both

2. Focus on one side first- Mostly successful companies have focussed on growing supply first.

  • Driving early supply- This is because supply could drive its own demand, or word-of-mouth can take care of demand.
  • Driving early demand- Here, you have to create value for your users. Find the product-market fit and convince the users to use the platform

In summary, the demand and supply problem is solved by focusing on constraining the market, i.e. either make your business geographically limited to a certain place or make it limited to a certain category of offerings. This gives businesses the time to build its foundation and to ensure growth opportunities.

Further, a marketplace owner should focus on convincing either side of the business before committing to the other, in this way establishing one part of it. Studies have suggested controlling supply growth and then focusing on-demand as a preferred method. Hence after constraining your market first focus on driving the supply in this way ensuring to fulfill vast demand.

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Growth Strategy For Telehealth Platform

Victoria Toffan

CEO of CONNECT2D TELEDENTISTRY

As Health Care providers, we must be consciously intentional when providing care, and I believe the same can be said when creating a Telehealth platform. It is our responsibility as innovators to work collaboratively with Health Care Professionals to tailor our platform to their needs, to build with intention, and to ultimately provide value as a part of a patient-focused healthcare ecosystem. When you create with purpose, growth is the side effect.

I consider Telehealth to be a low-frequency marketplace where the user may use the platform once a month or less. This means a telehealth entrepreneur will have to double the efforts on retention – both on the supply and the demand side. Founders require to focus on making significant value into the telehealth platform, beyond discovery & matching.

Having Low-frequency usage means a telehealth platform has to focus on competition and acquiring users with effective marketing. Here are some ideas for telehealth founders that can help them on their journey-

growth strategies for telehealth platform
Fig: 10 Growth strategies for telehealth platform

1. Focus On Your Differentiator

Think of unique features that would be useful for your audience. Find what are the aspects where the satisfaction score is still low with competitors.

Mark out those areas- whether it is the availability of practitioners or the quality of the video stream. Interview your potential users and find out the latent needs that you can fulfill.

You can also look into competing with the offline experience rather than with the online experience.
Integrating with health data or proactive nudges for the user based on data can also become a competitive edge.

2. Integrate With Things That Make Life Easy For Users

Practitioners are busy. Your platform should be easy to work with and should decrease the work for practitioners. Think of integrations with platforms like EPIC as well as automation in different areas that eventually make time-saving as one of the advantages of your platform.

This way, you can incentivize supply that leads to demand. When a practitioner asks their patient to use a particular platform, they would oblige.

Similarly, for users, create space for keeping reminders, health documents, insurance, prescriptions, etc., that the user can use while still deciding whether to use the platform further or not.

Additionally, health device integration and concierge integration can make the user experience smoother and provide a full care continuum.

3. Think Of Growth Hacks That Will Lead You To More Practitioners Quickly

For a telehealth platform, the supply side will have to grow first. Hence, work aggressively on onboarding practitioners quickly. Come up with ideas to keep practitioners engaged and motivated to remain on the platform. Have value adds such as other features they can use while they wait for patients to come.

These could again be features related to building their profile, transcription, appointment setting, reviews, etc.
Keep the platform released in limited geography and seed the platform.

Another way to increase supply quickly would be to join hands and collaborate with such platforms that are serving doctors for some other reason but not a direct competitor.

Practo, a telehealth platform, created the Practo Pro app separately for the doctors that would focus totally on doctors’ self needs such as managing schedules, track feedback, online consultations, etc.

4. Innovate

Innovation is one area with which you can create an edge. Going back to understanding the patient’s cycle, you should think about future trends and things that are still missing. Of course, it would not be so obvious, but a diligent effort to keep pushing the envelope can help.

Since, for a marketplace, you need reasons for the supply and demand to stay on your platform while you work on making transactions happen, innovation can give you a long rope on user experience.

You can think of blending new technology with old concepts or vice versa.

Imagine combining fitness-based data automatically prompting for scheduling visits or disrupting the postoperative course for the patient.

Another area could be using cloud computing and data to reinforce better care plans.

In fact, Mindbowser worked with a team of practitioners to build a platform based on thousands of data points, and artificial intelligence guides the intervention decision-making and recovery process. Read more here

5. Make It Available In Low Latency/even Offline Mode

You need to make your content available for the patients over a wide array of channels to ensure connectivity with them. As Telehealth crosses borders and reaches remote areas, have your video stream auto adjust with different internet bandwidth as well as available offline. This is something to be built in during the architecture of the application using adaptive bitrate streaming. Content availability ensures reliability for the platform. Read more about building online-offline architecture here.

One of the popular apps – Doxy, still runs as a web app and does not require the user to download anything.

Fig: Doxy platform runs on web app only with no mobile app

6. Own The Supply

Like many other marketplaces that have their own products as well to fulfill the marketplace (Remember AmazonBasics), a telehealth entrepreneur too can think of owning the supply by having their own practitioners using the platform. This will help you seed the platform with ample availability of supply right on day one. This is workable for medium size clinics to hospitals where the current model can be changed to on-demand service.
If this is possible for you then you can gradually build the network effect.

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7. Check For Availability Of Underutilized Assets To Unlock Growth

Another way to unlock supply would be to think of unconventional ways to find a supply. For telehealth, exploring an international pool of practitioners as well as going international for patients can be a great way for growth. Technology empowers us to go beyond geographical barriers. Telehealth can pave the path for international consultations where say, a patient in UAE could be consulting with an expert in Houston.

Other areas of underutilized assets would be integration with caregivers, lab testing, and physician referral platforms.

8. Check For Changes Around Regulatory Reform

Global conditions and pandemics force regulatory bodies to reform compliances and make them inline with present-day challenges. In fact, there were changes to HIPAA during COVID-19. Such disruptions open up opportunities for innovation. Keep an awareness regarding the changes in compliances and regulations. Sometimes such changes could help you pivot towards a more favorable business opportunity that was not available before.

9. Cover Non-conventional Domains

Get into non-conventional areas of Telehealth like nurse practitioners, veterinary, ambulatory care, caregiver management, or have a hyper-focus on niche areas like teledentistry or telecosmetic, behavioral health, etc. Driving into a hyper niche has been a growth model for many marketplaces. Going niche means you could have a chance to be a leader in that focussed space and drive innovation and competitive advantage.

Going Niche can also be possible on the customer side with a focus on particular ailments, people with special needs, smoking cessation, dermatology needs, etc.

10. Community Based Growth

Another important tool for telehealth platform growth would be building a community as the main aspect of the platform. Through the community, you give people a reason to keep using the platform even when they do not have the transactional need. Also, the community can help you build a loyal customer base as well as advocates for the brand. You can generate a lot of original content as well.

Apps like Mylo and Practo are good examples of community-driven growth

These are some of the ways that can drive growth for a telehealth platform. Telehealth platforms are at an exciting stage where the technology, the ecosystem, and opportunity are meeting in resonance. By driving the right strategy, a telehealth entrepreneur can drive towards success.

If you have any questions, feel free to get in touch with me at ayush@mindbowser.com

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Ayush Jain

CEO and Founder of Mindbowser, Chapter Director of StartupGrind Pune

Ayush is the CEO of Mindbowser Global Inc, a top-notch agency providing software development services to renowned companies like Dell, Pepsi as well as to a lot of growing startups. Ayush is also the director of the StartupGrind community and editor of The IoT Magazine and Chatbots Journal. Ayush serves on the board of several startups and is a seed investor.

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