Despite the outlook for UK business looking bleak right now – with tech start-ups and scale-ups among some of the worst affected – fast-growth HealthTech companies, by contrast, are extremely well placed to help address some of the unique challenges we are currently facing. This comes amidst a spike in both interest and demand for innovation and efficiency, as healthcare systems across the globe scramble to prepare for and cope with mass disruption to services and a huge influx of patients caused by the unfolding pandemic.
In the UK, NHSX, launched last year, is a joint unit bringing together teams from the Department of Health and Social Care, NHS England and NHS Improvement, to drive the digital transformation of care. It has been working hard throughout the ongoing crisis, to fast-track digital technologies into the hands of the healthcare professionals who need it most, as well as to the general public.
Between the race to evolve their products to support the unfolding crisis and the competition to become an official provider, HealthTech start-ups have had to focus on a very specific set of priorities. Effective PR has been an important part of the equation and will continue to be.
Move fast by proving your worth
A few weeks ago, NHS England issued a confidential 48-hour tender for the immediate provision of online primary care consultation to help the health service cope with patient demand in the face of the coronavirus outbreak. Suppliers were asked to bid on five lots, including text messaging, video consultations and automated triage. Eleven suppliers have now been selected to provide video consultations for primary care, including LIVI, Doctorlink, Ask NHS, Q Doctor and Visiba Care.
And we’re seeing many more companies in the HealthTech space – as well as those outside the space that can pivot for relevance – raising their profile, donating services and working with the NHS and the private sector to show what they can do. As the FT reports, when Coronavirus took hold in the UK, the team at DrDoctor, which automates appointment bookings, cancellations and referrals, immediately began building digital tools that would allow hospitals to broadcast in large volumes about changed and cancelled clinics, as non-essential appointments were put on hold. Three days later, the broadcasting tool had been used to reach 150,000 patients.
Meanwhile LIVI, the UK branch of Europe’s largest digital healthcare provider KRY, was chosen by Boots as its preferred GP provider, after launching a free, web-based platform enabling healthcare professionals to connect with patients via video consultations.
According to the Royal College of General Practitioners, in the four weeks leading up to April 12, about 71 per cent of routine consultations were remote, compared to 25 per cent in the same period last year.
Upgrade, scale and communicate
The NHS is moving faster than it ever has before, as the need to digitally transform and find ways to work smarter becomes increasingly pressing, and the success of more tech-savvy countries at combatting the virus and reducing mortality rates using advanced technology becomes more apparent.
HealthTech companies recognise that this is not the time to be ‘selling’, but a time to adapt and scale their platforms, and to reach out to the healthcare sector to let it know what they can do to contribute to the ongoing national – and international – effort. The businesses that do this – Hospify, Patchwork, Doctor Care Anywhere, Triscribe, Nori Health and Babylon Health to name just a few – are not only solving real-world problems but, in doing so, are forging relationships and gathering invaluable data to improve their services.
The role of efficient communications and PR in this space has been to allow HealthTech services to connect with the right people, in time to make a difference.
Prepare for the next chapter
Regardless of how long the current pandemic lasts, many foresee that we will emerge to a changed business landscape. So, what will this mean for fast-growth HealthTech companies? What should they do to sustain interest and demand in their products and communicate what they’ve learnt? How can they show up like the established businesses they’ve grown so fast to become during this unprecedented period, and continue attracting the attention of the right audiences?
To keep building trust and adoption in a crowded marketplace, and get their business to the next stage of growth, our advice to them would be:
- Communicate the problem their technology solves clearly and simply, in plain language that the general public – as well as industry and investors – will understand
- Clearly articulate the science and data that underpins it – and the “so what” of the benefits
- Be open and honest about the opportunities the technology brings, but also its limitations (don’t overhype it)
- Showcase the technology in action, using case studies that outline the benefits to real people
As the healthcare industry places increasing demand on technology to solve the toughest health challenges, following these steps should help HealthTech companies to continue gaining credibility as they evolve, differentiate from competitors, and show that they can keep delivering on their promises in a post COVID-19 world.