Health 2.0 – Time for a new Strategy
Peter Kruger, Analyst with Wireless Healthcare explains why the 30 million potential ‘alpha daughters’ who are providing care for elderly parents should be factored into any ehealth marketing strategy.
The area of the healthcare market, which a large number of next generation healthcare providers would like to occupy, can be looked on as a heavily defended piece of coastline. The nextgen providers, packed into landing crafts, are pinning their hopes on their wonder weapon – Health 2.0. However halfway up the beach the troops come under heavy fire from three well-armed groups; big pharma, insurers and the medical profession. There is also some sniping from the patients themselves. Health 2.0 does not seem to be living up to its role as a super weapon, a rickshaw with a crossbow mounted on it rather than a tank, in fact it draws more fire than it can return. The best that can be hoped for is some degree of convergence – but in such a one sided battle convergence would probably involve incumbents demanding the crossbow is replaced with a bow and arrow.
Despite being pinned down by the crossfire the brave hopefuls have not loss faith in their wonder weapon and point to battles past to justify their bravado. After all Web 1.0 itself disrupted the business models of any number of incumbents in the financial services and retail sectors. Unfortunately we may need to look back a bit further than the 1990s to find a strategy to defeat the incumbents in the healthcare sector. In fact today’s battle looks very similar to the one microcomputer manufactures fought in the early 1980’s. For big pharma and insurance companies read mainframe manufacturers and for healthcare providers read IT managers. While today the idea that a large company could operate without a single PC in the building seems bizarre this is exactly how IT managers and the computer industry saw the world twenty years ago.
Microcomputers did eventually find their way into large organisations. Sometimes company workers, tired of waiting for time on the company mainframe, visited their local computer store and purchased a home computer on expenses. Enterprising suppliers packaged up PCs with other equipment allowing it to be smuggled into the company under the guise of scientific equipment. This was common in applications areas, such as graphics processing and image analysis, where IT managers wanted to retain control over all computing equipment purchases even though they had little understanding of the application itself. It took only a short time for the work of entrepreneurial purchasers of microcomputers to come to the attention of upper management – after all these entrepreneurs were developing new products and processes while the IT department was only a cost centre. At this point the head of IT had to admit there was, after all, a place for the PC in the company’s IT strategy and turned their guns on the mainframe supplier - demanding technology that enabled the PC and the mainframe to talk to each other. The rest is history.
With the above history lesson in mind how do we develop a strategy that will accelerate the take up of Health 2.0 based healthcare services. One possibility is to abandon the full frontal attack and outflank the incumbent healthcare providers by talking directly to their users. Not, in this case, the patients but a large group of people who play an important role in the care process. There are up to 30 million people who provide care of their ageing parents. It should be possible to target these ‘alpha daughters’ as though they are just another group of potential consumers of online services. Despite its size, and the fact that it is due to grow rapidly over the next two decades, the alpha daughter market is less well understood that the 11 million ‘alpha moms’ who are currently targeted by the marketing departments of most leading consumer goods and services companies.
There are financial incentives for an alpha daughter to use a Health 2.0 type services to support the care of elderly parents. Once these services are in place healthcare providers will be obliged to modify their business models to accommodate third party alpha daughter style services – even if this means turning their guns on former allies. For the Health 2.0 advocates this strategy could see more ground gained for less pain on the beach. Wireless Healthcare report – eHealth and the Elderly Consumer