Patients Are Consumers: How to Position Your Startup to a Non-Clinician Audience


In this playbook, we outline how medical device entrepreneurs can thrive in the consumer health market.

Key Lessons From This Playbook

  • Target multiple types of stakeholders: Many of the most successful consumer-facing medtech devices also provide doctors and researchers with usable health data, creating a win-win for multiple parties. 
  • Demonstrate dual value: First, show the value of your product in a controlled environment, such as a clinical trial. Then, go one step further and show that the clinical work translates to the consumer’s real-world use of the technology.
  • Highlight quantifiable cost savings: Focus on both cost savings and clinical efficacy. Too many medical technology entrepreneurs neglect how their product impacts the economics of healthcare.

Promote Visibility

Chemical engineer and serial entrepreneur Peter Vranes is the Co-Founder and CEO of Nutromics, an Australian medtech company that developed a wearable smart patch to track molecular targets. The Nutromics patch has the potential to flag early signs of conditions like diabetes, kidney failure, and cardiovascular disease. 

Vranes urges entrepreneurs to build brand awareness by utilizing publicized competitions and accelerators as a means to increase their product visibility.  

Balance Form and Function

John Mastrototaro, the CEO and Director of Movano Health, with over three decades of experience in the medical device space, emphasizes the importance of aesthetics for wearable devices. His company is pioneering Movano, a smart ring for women that keeps track of critical health measures Mostrato's key lesson is that a wearable device needs to be functional and look appealing at the same time.

Leverage Word of Mouth

Jennifer Ernst’s background in translational science: taking groundbreaking research and turning it into a commercial product makes her particularly well-suited to the consumer-facing medtech space. As the co-founder and CEO of Tivic Health, Ernst led the development of the company’s groundbreaking device ClearUP, an OTC handheld device that relieves symptoms of sinus and nasal congestion using gentle pulsed electron waves.

Ernst recommends generating support for OTC devices through user reviews and word-of-mouth. The more consumers use and share about your product, the more likely physicians are to recommend it to other patients. 

Gear Up the Supply Chain

Cody Simmons, CEO of DermaSensor, spearheaded the development and commercialization efforts of the world’s first handheld point-and-click skin cancer detection tool, raising more than $27 million to launch their flagship device.  

Simmon’s advice for start-ups? Get all of your manufacturing and supply ducks in a row to help de-risk your company for investors. Backers want to see that you have an established manufacturing process, and that you’re prepared to ramp up supply when getting to market.

Address Known Issues in Big Ways

Hinge Health President Jim Pursely has spent the last decade tackling the biggest problems in healthcare. Now he’s pioneering remote technology that makes high-quality musculoskeletal (MSK) care more accessible, by allowing caregivers and physical therapists to evaluate patients via the Hinge Health app.

Pursley encourages entrepreneurs to go big with a known issue when choosing a market. It’s easier to convince providers to spend money on a more cost-effective solution to a problem they’re already paying for than it is to convince them to invest in a problem they haven’t dealt with yet.

Dual Commercialization Strategy Works

Sean Saint, the former CEO of Companion Medical (which sold to Medtronic), has more than 20 years of experience in medical devices and various start-ups He’s also living with type 1 diabetes, which gave him indispensable insight when designing Companion Medical’s InPen, a Bluetooth insulin pen that transmits doses and other info directly to the patient’s phone. 

Saint suggests following a two-pronged approach to commercialization: Aim for direct-to-healthcare provider sales, while also implementing a direct-to-consumer model.

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