Healthcare innovation continues at a staggering pace and with it comes the need for an effective go-to-market strategy to get the product to providers and patients. Taking innovation to the market needs a comprehensive commercial strategy powered by the right tools and technologies. This blog takes you through what’s needed and why a technology strategy for commercial operations can’t be an afterthought.
Innovation in the healthcare industry
Take the example of Biogen's anti-Alzheimer drug and you will see what can go wrong with a product launch that came with huge expectations. Neurologists are not fully convinced and most payers are yet to cover the hefty $55,000+ annual cost per patient. On the other hand, there’s innovation that’s transformative and seeing promising quick adoption. Butterfly Network, an imaging company that went public this year, aims to transform healthcare with handheld ultrasounds. These devices can potentially replace the stethoscope for the 40M+ healthcare practitioners around the world. The growth in uptake has been remarkable and their go-to-market strategy is being executed on multiple fronts from distribution partnerships to research collaborations. Getting it out there is hard, often much harder than creating the product itself. Companies need to ensure the creation of a package of outcomes and services that is clear on reimbursement, access, and clinical value.
The two phases of successful healthcare innovation
The path for a successful healthcare innovation has two phases:
- The product development phase
- The go-to-market phase
Companies spend years developing their products, obtaining approvals and then go to market with a steep market challenge ahead of them. First-in-class products have an even greater adoption challenge. Butterfly Network’s handheld ultrasound for example, would need to get into physician and nurse pockets and take the place of what clinicians have been using for more than a century—the stethoscope. A lot of awareness, education, and evidence is needed to achieve a change in physician behaviour and be adopted in different medical contexts. While the Butterfly Network’s initial success has been among ER docs, they have to repeat this success across specialties, clinical environments and geographies. So the commercial strategy to make these products a market success is as critical as the research and development (R&D) that went into creating this unique product.
Go-to-market strategy determines your market success
Research from Health Advances (1) and others has shown that investing adequately in product launches and comprehensiveness of execution plans is a significant determinant in the market success of the product. It’s clear the commercial strategy needs to be executed methodically, efficiently, and effectively. What’s needed is a well oiled cohesive operation that addresses the following:
- Clear consistent messaging of the innovative product to clinical professionals and healthcare organizations.
- A plan to continue to build on the evidence base for the product
- Provide clarity on the reimbursement coverage and the support required by providers in identifying and onboarding patients.
- Patient support services to ensure that patients face minimum hurdles in accessing and benefiting from the product.
- Collate market feedback back into the sales enablement and product team to continue to improvise on the messaging and enhancements in the product if possible.
Connected processes make growth strategies easier
Traditionally, the above functions operated independently with their own siloed processes and data collection mechanisms. Technology choices are mostly an afterthought and over time the internal technical landscape becomes complex and fragmented. This turns out to be inadequate to achieve market success with innovative products. Building cohesiveness and being effective in the above-mentioned activities goes beyond holding interdepartmental meetings. There has to be a unified understanding of the customer, their needs, how they evaluate and purchase products, and the subsequent support and renewal contexts.
Take the case of a company that has a product with broad applicability but chooses the ER physicians as the point of entry into the market. While there needs to be a sales and marketing effort that spans educational and liaisoning activity with that specialty, the purchasing department at the healthcare organizations becomes a key relationship that needs to be nurtured for subsequent cross-selling into other specialties. Getting feedback and outcomes data from the users becomes useful for the marketing, sales enablement as well as product teams. Relationships with one specialty can help build clinical evidence for openings into adjacent specialties that get pulled into the ER. Partnerships are also an integral part of the growth strategy. These may be sales channels or these could be academic collaborations to build the evidence on clinical and economic value. The data from these collaborations feeds back into adapting messaging and the product roadmap. As you can see the core design principle for this kind of a cohesive commercial operation for growth is to share the same understanding of the world. The data pertaining to the customer, partners and users have to be uniformly defined so that the whole operation can link their plans and managerial tools such as KPIs.
This is why we recommend a comprehensive approach to technology by deploying a customizable and extensible CRM as the central platform for your market growth strategy.
You need to invest in a good technology platform
Having the different organizational functions on the same platform keeps the technical complexity low while ensuring a data-driven commercial operation. There is also another significant advantage—extensibility—of using a comprehensive platform such as the Salesforce CRM. Let us explore this point a little more. The scale and size of the commercial operations are often calibrated to the market phase. In the figure below you can see a framework we have developed for examining how emerging companies with unique products think about developing their go-to-market capabilities. The S-curve in capabilities (figure below) needed gives direction to the technology leadership planning out the deployment of technologies as their market success increases. As an example, a product may start needing only a small team getting the product into some key opinion leaders before a larger rollout requiring multi-channel and multi-national marketing. The capabilities are drastically different in each phase but one should not plan to rip and replace technologies for each phase of growth. Instead, there needs to be a technology that can scale and align to commercial growth.
Choosing a platform that is simple enough for small operations, but scalable to a large multinational operation is a key part of the execution plan. There’s a point in the post-product launch phase—MVR or minimum viable repeatability—where there needs to be a subsequent ramp-up of the operation, eventually building it out to scale nationally or globally with a goal to maintain leadership in the product category. This phase requires a comprehensive mix of technologies as in the Salesforce.com portfolio to get there quicker, with the least technical complexity and in the most efficient manner.
Find a partner who can help you scale up—neatly
The Salesforce.com portfolio allows these companies to start small on technology but also scales neatly along with their growth. An equally important choice is the implementation team required to deploy these technologies. Success comes from a roadmap of solutions that is consistent throughout the growth of these companies. Traction on Demand’s Healthcare and Life Sciences team not only has the technical expertise but the industry expertise and experience to help guide you to a successful healthcare innovation that you’ll be able to scale.