Have you got a worrying rash? Looking for a more effective pain management solution? Need emergency contraception, delivered to your door? Well, with just a few taps and small payment, consider it sorted. No long waits, no doctors waiting rooms, no trips to the pharmacy needed. Welcome to digital healthcare in 2023.
Using an online, app-based platform to access specialist clinicians and secure necessary medication has become a normalised option for patients looking to sidestep record-high NHS wait times. In response to heavy demand for convenient healthcare solutions, the market for digital health microproviders (VIMPROs) has swelled - and grown increasingly saturated. Patients are now typically faced with an array of different providers, each promising more or less the same service packages and price point.
But is patient demand - and their spending power - sufficient to sustain the multitude of providers? Investors' pockets are now looking very shallow for those companies that cannot evidence strong growth trajectories, and it’s likely that we’ll see numerous consolidations and dissolutions over the next 12 months. This begs the questions: what are the core criteria for success? And, when it comes to business longevity, what are the non-negotiables and which strengths matter most?
Unsurprisingly, the demand for a human point of contact in the healthcare journey remains strong. Although patients are happy to swap stressed interactions with GP receptionists for confidential online booking forms, they overwhelmingly prefer video or phone consultations with clinicians over asynchronous modes of communication. This could be because they struggle with limited health literacy, or just because they find reassurance in the opportunity to converse with someone who has special expertise in their condition. It follows that providers who can offer their users coveted, on-demand access to clinicians will be the preferred choice - and be able to justify higher prices.
Although patients appreciate facetime with a doctor, most display little desire to make a trip to the pharmacy to collect their prescriptions. However, digitising the multiple steps in the prescribing process - whilst guaranteeing safety and regulatory compliance - can be a difficult undertaking, especially for smaller providers. To ensure that users are presented with streamlined access to medication in a cost-efficient and scalable manner, the majority of leading providers have opted to partner with expert digital pharmacy infrastructure providers. Working collaboratively, it becomes possible to offer a friction-free prescription generation, fulfilment and delivery experience to prescribers and patients.
Patients are rightly concerned about the quality of care they are offered by digital providers, and also about the security of the personal and medical data they must share during the treatment process. Trust must be built by these providers through evidence of rigorous safety practices and data protection protocols. Any evidence of shortcomings will destroy trust instantly, causing reputational damage that will be extremely costly and difficult to recover from.
Collaborating with healthcare institutions, including the NHS, will be marked on the roadmap of the majority of ambitious providers that are planning to grow and scale their operations. In this instance, the achievement of high data security standards and full regulatory compliance is a non-negotiable.
An important way for providers to strengthen the trust and confidence that their users have in them is to display transparency and clarity in their pricing model. This means that all costs should be communicated upfront, and comparisons between the different options available made easy to access. Providers that do this well win respect from users, as they empower them to choose the service and the treatment option that best fits their needs and their budget.
The average person is used to an extremely high standard of app design, along with an intuitive user journey and shopping interface. This means any app flaws, points of friction, needless complexity or access problems will quickly frustrate the user and cause them to search for an alternative provider. The same is true for prescribers, who display a strong preference for digital tools that are quick and easy to use - so they can spend more time delivering patient consultations and less time on admin tasks.
Ultimately, the providers with longevity are those who can harness the latest technologies to deliver excellent experience and outcomes to users, in a compliant, scalable way. Trust and convenience are the two key currencies, and banking on those will secure ultimate success for the company. Get in touch and start the conversation.