Health Tech Marketing Insights that Resonate with Physicians
Dr. Bullard should know. A physician and entrepreneur. Dr. Bullard is a recognized leader in integrating behavioral health in primary care, increasing practice workflow efficiencies and leveraging technology to improve the patient experience and patient care.
His company Vault was founded to improve the care of patients, including those who visit his own practices, Acuity Brain Center and MaxHealth, located in the Dallas, Texas area.
As our conversation reveals, the reason for failure is typically not clinical; rather it’s often how the product or service will be integrated into existing systems and maintained.
Dr. Bullard will be a panelist at the upcoming MedTechTX Summit on Oct 3 and 4 in Austin (co-hosted by Spectrum and the Austin Technology Council) to share his successes and lessons learned in meeting marketing challenges.
As a physician yourself, how do you think you are better prepared to bring a new product to market given your understanding of your target customers and their needs?
Jeff Bullard, MD: Let me put it to you this way. Having a physician at the leadership position helps. We are responsible and take a physician minded approach so we won’t over claim or oversell. We don’t need to.
I know the pain points of my profession. I have first hand knowledge of what issues need to be solved, patient types, the condition or care obstacles that need to be addressed and how providers like to see data. I also understand the potential impact on provider and clinic workflow. Over the years I have seen many products or service offerings that may provide some clinical benefit, but are disruptive to workflow and require too much of a shift in clinic processes to be useful.
As an entrepreneur, what challenges specifically related to the healthcare field do you face in gaining market adoption?
Jeff Bullard, MD: Limited time and access. A key challenge is overwhelming data overload — a tech/device tsunami — so there is a lot of competition for customer attention.
And then there are the claims of vendors before us. So often doctors and managers have adopted new products or services that over promised and under delivered. Consequently any new offering is met with skepticism.
What is the most critical thing entrepreneurs can do to validate their claims with physicians and healthcare providers?
Jeff Bullard, MD: The best documentation that an entrepreneur can share is proof of concept. When asking about studies or validations, of course physicians want to know if this is a good or bad thing for patient care. But they also want to know ‘have you done this before, how do you change the process that is already in place, who is doing it, have they had good results, are they able to bill and collect for it.’ They want to know that what you are claiming is actually going to happen and have a workable financial return.
What’s interesting is the clinical consideration is the easiest one.
I can take my product to any CEO, any doctor, any mental health provider, and they agree this is a good idea; we need to do this. And then there is the stop. What they see is change, and the wheels start spinning, and the brakes come out, and say ‘I don’t know how we are going to change, and I don’t have time to think about how to change.’ They start bargaining. Well maybe some of the things we are currently doing are good or good enough, They don’t want to move down the path of change.
So how do you address these concerns?
Jeff Bullard, MD: When we go in and talk to an organization, we start with the why. What are the challenges you are currently facing? We try to highlight and acknowledge some of the organization’s current best practices and then explain how our solution can make a big difference. We illustrate how we have wrapped an entire process around it, so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel or start from scratch. We make the ‘change’ as easy as possible for them so they can continue to focus on the benefits of our product and not get derailed by the negatives associated with change.
That’s what gets us across the finish line.
They have to really feel how our solution is going work at the practice level, believe this going to work for them, and trust that with our help they will be able to make that happen.
What kind of materials do you find useful to evaluate new products and solutions?
Jeff Bullard, MD: It depends on the setting. For the 2 minute elevator pitch, I want to see something that gets to the “why” right away coupled with information I can look at after the representative is there. I want information that let’s me see how this fits into what I am trying to accomplish with my patient population. And then I want you to dive down into what is the process, how will I do it, but at a later date.
For a thirty minute demonstration, I want to see how it will work for me and why. Show me how your solution is more effective or better at accomplishing something than what I am using today.
If I go and talk to a provider or a group, rarely will we use a powerpoint unless it’s a very large group in a large room. It’s more about the story, understanding pain points, and getting them on the same page. Only in the end will I give them some materials — a brochure or provide a quick demonstration of the product – once the questions start coming.
It makes it more fun when you know they are engaged and get questions, and you can say, ‘Yes we thought of that. We can do that for you.’ That feels so much better, and it lets me know I am doing my job.
How do physicians learn about and evaluate new products and services?
Jeff Bullard, MD: Recommendations from colleagues for sure and device reps who already have a working relationship with the provider and have a positive track record.
Physicians often want to hear from providers who can speak their language and speak to the product benefits/wins. Some learn from administrators/managers. Many delegate anything other than a high level overview to managers/billers etc. More recently they hear from leadership in their “network.”
How can health tech entrepreneurs more effectively reach/market to physicians?
Jeff Bullard, MD: Tap into the existing salesforce. Utilize physician champions in sales roles or tap into a provider’s ‘sphere of influence.’ Land a network and market from the top down. Understand that providers fall into one of the 3 buckets: Evidence-based focus, Medical-legal focus, Financial focus. Quickly identify your audience’s focus and speak to that.
What message and advice do you want to deliver at the MedTechTX Summit?
Look for an opportunity to unify silos of care/data. Every organization has a different focus which means you have to tailor your message and value propositions in a way that allows you to cast a very wide net. You never really know what will be the one thing that is of interest to your potential customer.
Do your homework and figure out how your great idea is going to work in the real world. Otherwise even if you can get some traction, you will get replaced by someone behind you that did that homework and figured that out.