Business opportunities in healthcare technology have never been more abundant. At the same time, the challenges of capturing market share in the complex healthcare marketplace are as daunting as ever. For young companies and startups looking to gain traction and generate revenue, a sound go-to-market strategy and demand generation plan are essential. For many resource-constrained companies, a fractional Chief Marketing Officer has proven to be the fastest, most cost-effective way to achieve their growth objectives.
The long-held notion that the U.S. healthcare system was in need of transformation was dramatically affirmed by the COVID-19 crisis. The pandemic fueled unprecedented adoption of digital technologies to deliver contactless care. The acute need for technology-enabled solutions to reduce costs and improve treatments have accelerated innovation that might have taken years otherwise.
According to Deloitte, venture funding for health tech innovators almost doubled in 2020 to $14 billion compared to 2019 and the growth will likely continue unabated in 2021. Many investors see the post-pandemic era as the beginning of a multiyear opportunity rather than a bubble.
This growth is well represented by the explosion in demand for telehealth services in 2020. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), telehealth visits were up 154% in the last week of March 2020 compared with the previous year. By mid-year 2020, 46% of patients said they used telehealth for some visits, from 11% in 2019. And 48% of physicians were treating patients via telemedicine.
Telehealth may not be the industry’s innovation bellwether indefinitely. The continued growth in telehealth is largely dependent on the preservation of government and insurer (payer) policies that reimburse healthcare providers at the same rates whether the care is delivered digitally or in-person. Less conditional, however, is the pressure on providers to reduce costs, improve outcomes and maintain or grow market share in an increasingly consumer-driven marketplace.
The appetite among health systems, hospitals and other care providers for technology-enabled solutions is real and significant. The American Hospital Association (AHA) recently shared expert analysis predicting three transformative trends influencing hospital innovation investments:
It’s this demand for transformation that is driving opportunity for technology companies in the areas of big data and artificial intelligence (AI), wearable technologies, virtual reality, predictive healthcare and revenue cycle management. The problem for many promising early-stage companies however is getting healthcare providers’ attention.
While it’s true that healthcare companies are signaling their interest in transformation by investing in promising young companies, growth for these companies depends on the development of a solid brand message and the execution of a go-to-market plan designed to arrest the attention of, and build credibility with, prospective customers.
Nowhere is the complexity of the healthcare industry market more apparent than in the number and titles of stakeholders involved in any significant buying decision. Depending on the solution, participants in the research and decision-making process may include analysts; directors in quality, clinical, information systems (including informatics); the CEO, CFO, COO, CMO (medical) and CIO among others. Each is motivated by their own interests and pain points. Any company hoping to engage successfully with this market must be prepared to understand – and speak to – each of these personas.
This process can take months or years, but a fractional marketing executive can accelerate the entire cycle – from strategy to planning to execution – in a matter of weeks. In some organizations, fractional CMOs are affiliated with other CMOs through a centralized organization. CMOs with access to the larger group’s knowledge base often add even more value.
For startup and early-stage companies under pressure to demonstrate their potential for growth, fractional marketing executives have demonstrated the ability to fast track brands and drive demand, offering founders and CEOs a shortcut to success without the risks and uncertainties associated with a full-time hire.