Marketing technology has changed just about every industry there is. From retail to security, travel to leisure; its presence is felt through targeted marketing, personalization and improved customer service. But some industries were harder to change than others.

The medical industry, for example, presented a lot of obstacles for growth; despite the need for change, practitioners and healthcare workers were resistant. Perhaps unsurprisingly so. When people's lives are at stake and practices liable for costly law suits, solid protocols must be established and followed. Then there's the need for data protection. All healthcare practitioners must comply with HIPAA regulations that demand all patient information is confidential. This made moving large volumes of paper files into the cloud a harrowing and nerve wracking experience for all.

One of the most impactful inventions to change the medical marketing community was the online patient review. If your front office staff was rude, or your doctor was late - people were going to hear about it.

Doctors began to realize that they needed to change the way they were marketing (or start marketing, period), so that their clinic didn't get left behind. I was running the marketing department for a busy surgery center during those transitional years and let's just say - there was a lot of drama and heated debates, resistance and resentment.

Around 2009 or 2010, most doctors finally accepted the need to have a website and get familiar with social media. This was an unpleasant surprise for many, who traditionally based their businesses on referrals and perhaps some email marketing provided by their affiliate hospitals. Medical professionals also started to witness a few leading doctors with attractive websites (complete with videos), a targeted social media strategy, and appearances on TV shows, like Dr. Oz and The Doctors. The laggards couldn't fathom how people they went to medical school with were doing so much better than them! It was time to get into the 21st century.

As it has been with most huge, archaic industries, entrepreneurs arrived on the scene and things began to rapidly change. Luke Kervin, Founder of PatientPop, never imagined that he would have a medical technology business, but after a personal experience - it was a natural fit.

After selling an e-commerce platform in 2012, Kervin found himself an expecting father, which meant that he also found himself spending a lot of time in waiting rooms accompanying his wife. After experiencing first hand the lengthy wait times, rushed visits, surprise billings, and even an overlooked test result that could have proved disastrous; he realized practitioners were crying out for a more efficient solution for managing (and marketing to) patients.

Like many innovators before him, Kervin learned in a very personal way that necessity is the mother of invention. Here are a few key lessons to learn from his journey about how to tackle a multi-faceted problem:

Researching the market

Before you can invent a workable solution to a problem, researching the market is essential. You'll find out how to tweak your ideas to meet the pain points of your target audience. Kervin's original idea was to build a software platform to help OB-GYNs coordinate care, but he shares: "After interviewing a dozen healthcare providers, I learned that there was a bigger problem at hand - the increasing pressures of running a private practice were distracting providers from doing what they do best - caring for patients."

Amidst the confusion and (in some cases) chaos, doctors who went to medical school to practice medicine were being forced to act like business managers as well. And their customers were becoming more demanding.

As you look towards solving a huge problem in your own industry, make sure you understand the intricacies of it first. Not just how your potential customers are stuck without a solution, but why. And why has no one else been successful at creating a solution before this? If you can ask the deep questions at the research stage, it will give you a serious advantage as you create your solution.

Understanding the customer

In the case of the medical industry, customer expectations were beginning to change. Thanks to instant gratification from companies like Amazon and Uber, they began to expect and demand better attention.

Healthcare practices are businesses after all. They don't live in an ecosystem with no competition. Patients have a choice when it comes to their healthcare and they will choose the practice that treats them well and delivers excellent customer service.

Kervin confirms: "The ecommerce world that I was familiar with already had all of these things, but strangely, healthcare - undeniably the most valuable service - was not at all consumer-friendly." They needed to establish or improve their online presence and make it convenient for patients from the outset. Practices that were hard to reach or simply not available through a basic online search would fall by the wayside among an internet-savvy, impatient type of patient.

Kervin's experience gives voice to a wildly overlooked step in the innovation process. You can't just know what your customer's problem is, you also have to know the level of service they're used to. Patience and attention spans are at a premium these days when it comes to technology because great innovators have showed us what an A-list user experience looks like. So of course, if your industry hasn't caught up to that, there will be some problems. Which brings us to our next point:

User experience is everything

Think of how many apps you have seen created, but never caught on. Many times, this has nothing to do with being able to meet a distinct need; too often, it's about a lacking user experience.

Attracting and retaining clients starts with them being able to reach you easily. By creating a mobile and user-friendly technology called Practice Growth, PatientPop was able to manage the patient journey from the very first impression, to the examining room. "In e-commerce terms, we think of this phase as the purchase funnel - the steps that that customer goes through before the business can ring the cash register."

Armed with your knowledge of your market and target customers, you must create a user experience that pleasantly surprises people. The most effective marketers will tell you that generating sales is less focused on "driving traffic" and more focused on providing a killer user experience for your visitors. This leads to repeat visits, rave reviews, and personal referrals - the most powerful form of marketing there is.


When you look back into history at the greatest inventions we know, the wheel, the printing press, Penicillin; they all have something in common. They were born out of necessity. A smart entrepreneur knows how to identify a need, correctly asses the market and offer a user-friendly solution that provides a win-win situation for all. That's how to use technology to transform an industry, and offer solutions that change lives.

Published on: Mar 1, 2017