Archive for Patients as Healthcare Consumers

Have a million dollar idea but need a million to launch? Try this.

Everyone cares about health. That’s why the Knight News Challenge is offering a share of more than $2 million for “innovative ideas to harness information and data for the health of communities.” The Health Challenge follows up the successful Open Government Challenge, which earlier this year provided more than $3.2 million to fund ideas designed to improve the interaction of the government and the public.

Don’t think you have a chance? Think again. The Health Challenge was opened on August 19th. As of this writing, it’s received 55 entries. Heck, I’ve been in corporate conference rooms with more people than that. Now think about being in such a room where you get a great opportunity to present your idea to heavy hitters such as the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the HealthData Consortium, the California Healthcare Foundation and the Clinton Foundation, all of whom are providing additional funding.

Reviewing the entries (which I strongly urge you to do, even if it’s just the “Describe your project in one sentence” portion), I marvel at the breadth and cleverness of the ideas. They address healthcare concerns on every scale, from a small town (“Connecting to Create a Health Vibrant Cavendish, Vermont) to nations and all of humanity.

Some ideas are somewhat fanciful (e.g.:  The Happiness Initiative; An app that seeks to be “the Gym, Vitamin Store and Spa for your brain”; A website connecting people to “local laughter clubs”; The first use I’ve seen of the term “medicotainment”; Promotion of Advaita Vedanta theory, which asserts that this universe is a projection). Others have a better chance (in my opinion) of obtaining funding.

Some highlights:

The Environmental Toxic History Project would “crunch data taken from government records, record historically significant information about former military sites, and overlay maps of cancer clusters to inform communities about historical toxins and to examine possible health effects.”

A social media driven Doppler-style map of common illnesses, “informing local communities in real-time about regional disease outbreaks with supplementary information about precautions and prophylactic remedies.”

A service that helps people donate their anonymized health records, for research purposes, upon their death.

A web-based lifestyle change program to help truckers lose weight and prevent diabetes.

A public site “where consumers and investors can instantly check companies’ giving to the charities with the highest proven health impact.”

One more I couldn’t resist:  A company that has been granted a patent enabling it to be called the “eBay” of healthcare.

The entry phase closes September 17th. Winners will be announced by the end of the year. I’ll write about them in a future blog.

Thanks to Chris Seper at MedCity News for this story tip.


Posted in: Digital Health, Health 2.0, Healthcare Marketing, Marketing Medical Devices, Medical Device Marketing, Medical Devices, mHealth, Patients as Healthcare Consumers

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Mobile Activity Apps – It’s a Gold Rush

Weight Watchers recently announced a 16% decrease in second quarter earnings. Their stock price is down nearly 20%. Their CFO’s explanation? “We feel some of that is driven by the continued sudden explosion of interest in free apps and activity monitors.”

Ya think?

The irony is that the goal of Weight Watchers and many of the mobile app developers is identical:  To get people to eat sensibly and exercise regularly. But in some ways, Weight Watchers appears to have been emulating the slow-moving, over-laden people they’ve been catering to since 1963. Weight Watchers has been figuratively sitting on the couch when they should have been actively identifying and figuring out ways to run as fast (or faster) as the new competitors eroding their bottom line.

The competition in this market space is brutal

It’s particularly lamentable to a marketer like me. Weight Watchers has name recognition and a reputation for effectiveness that nearly every mobile activity monitor start-up would kill for. Heck, with 2012 revenues of $1.8 billion, it seems reasonable that they should be among the strongest market leaders in this space. Weight Watchers does, of course, have a mobile application and it appears to address the main parameters important to Weight Watchers subscribers (such as “nearest weight watchers meeting”). But compare the number of Weight Watchers subscribers (approximately 763,000) with, say, mobile activity app MyFitnessPal, with over 40 million users.

I don’t mean to single out Weight Watchers. The competition in this market space is brutal. Product development and marketing costs are prohibitive. New players come in to the field constantly. Consumers are numerous but fickle, and with so many apps being free or nearly so, can afford to be.

Still, the lure of an exploding market and the attendant potential of huge sales and profits keeps the players in the game. Established fitness-associated companies (such as Weight Watchers and Nike, for example) need to capitalize on their powerful reputations and produce mobile apps consistent with their brand standards. Startups will rely on unique insight and innovation. This is a Gold Rush. There will be big winners and big losers. But Gold Rushes don’t last forever.


Posted in: Digital Health, Health 2.0, Healthcare Marketing, Marketing Medical Devices, Medical Device Marketing, Medical Devices, mHealth, Patients as Healthcare Consumers

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