Recent years have shown that the expansion of the medical industry, including the e-Health sector, sometimes leads to the introduction to the market of innovative products with not fully thought-out functionalities. In this article, we look at the above-mentioned phenomenon and share with you our observations on what can happen if business goals overshadow the initiative to create useful products that respond to the actual needs of users.
Extensive experience in the health sector, closely related to telemedicine, shows that this field does not differ from others in business terms. After all, in every industry, companies are fighting for the attention of the customer and this is a completely normal phenomenon. In every sector, including e-Health, in addition to traditional sales activities, you can unfortunately come across more aggressive practices and promotion of products that only seemingly help users. This often uses the communicative context of taking care of the health and life of the user, despite the fact that the offered solution turns out to be a “shell”, and its functionalities, instead of facilitating taking care of health, at best – do not contribute anything.
What is a “shell” product?
The phenomenon of a “shell” product can be easily illustrated with the example of some telemonitoring wristbands available on the Polish market. Wristbands acting as digital caregivers (for the elderly and chronically ill and other groups) are products that enjoy considerable interest and can indisputably increase the sense of security and facilitate the daily functioning of the user. It happens, however, that among the practical, necessary functionalities, the manufacturer also places not fully thought-out functions, which seemingly raise the level of innovation or attractiveness of the product. An example, in this case, is the oxygen saturation measurement function, attracting attention due to the still present coronavirus.
While the possibility of measuring the patient’s oxygen saturation using a telecare band worn on the wrist seems to be a business hit, from a practical and substantive point of view it turns out to be only a false promise, because saturation, as a reliable medical measurement, should be measured only on the finger using a certified medical device.
Sales based on trust
A customer who does not have enough knowledge in this area, does not have time for proper research, or hesitates between several devices available on the market, will probably choose the one that will offer more and will best take care of their needs. As a result, such a choice may turn out to be dangerous for the health or life of the user – as an unreliable measurement, the result may suggest good health, when in fact the patient may need the assistance of a caregiver or medical staff.
However, it is not the customer’s responsibility to have full substantive knowledge about every product in which they are interested, especially when it comes to specialized products. The customer trusts the manufacturer that the product information (available on the Internet, in a brochure, etc.) is true. Unfortunately, this trust is very easy to undermine, and once deceived a customer will reluctantly decide to buy again.
A low level of customer trust in the manufacturer or product should usually provoke reflection and motivate improvement in the quality of services. In extreme cases, however, it may do the opposite, and the company, in order to increase sales, will paradoxically make it difficult for customers to access detailed knowledge about the product, in the hope that they will not be too insistent.
Telemedicine in public projects
Some telemedicine projects, especially regional ones, are financed from public funds. When creating an outline of the requirements that they expect from the products provided as part of the project, public institutions must have at least basic knowledge about their functionalities and the current state of telemedicine. In fact, basic research may not be so easy, due, for example, to the loud promotion of innovative “shells” or the lack of transparency of the manufacturer.
The multitude of solutions available on the market, as well as the number of mailings presenting the offers of various manufacturers, definitely do not help public institutions make a decision that would be an ideal response to the needs of the target group of the project. Unfortunately, verification of meeting the needs often takes place only during the implementation of the project, when users are already using the supplied devices.
Follow smart practices
How can you approach the sale and promotion of telecare devices wisely? What should you pay special attention to in order to best respond to the needs of end users and not invest resources in the production of “shells”? If you want to learn how we do it at Comarch, follow the next entries on our blog – soon we will publish the continuation of this thread.
And, if you have questions about our e-Health solutions, we encourage you to contact our consultant through a dedicated form.
Iwona Senkowska, Katarzyna Strzebońska