Managing forever beta

The very notion of product ownership is radically changing. When people buy products, they are in many cases no longer purchasing physical, finished items but conduits for evolving experiences. Enterprises are beginning to design updateable products with the ability to expand services and experiences in the future, making it possible to respond to changing customer demands and expectations at a moment’s notice. Healthcare organisations must recognise this new “co-ownership” paradigm with customers and work to design their products and ecosystems to accommodate ongoing change.

In the short term, smart and updatable devices are becoming tools in the fight against COVID-19. The beta burden isn’t gone, but fighting the pandemic is temporarily taking precedence. Smart health devices can help identify symptoms, can monitor patients, and have troves of valuable health data that can help researchers and governments save lives.

76%

of health business and IT executives report their industry is moving toward offering more variety in ownership models for their connected products and/or services.

Think long term

COVID-19 sparked an urgency to deploy new technology quickly—from digital contact tracing that requires people to opt in, to collaboration technologies that allow the new remote workforce to collaborate. To help fight the virus, people are inviting more smart devices into their lives, and many are more willing to share health-related data.1 The world moved fast to adopt new technology, but weaknesses were soon revealed. For instance, the Zoom platform skyrocketed from 10 million daily meeting participants in December to 300 million by April, but security issues and privacy risks quickly came to light2 and the company had to address these immediately.

Furthermore, governing bodies during the pandemic have liberalised restrictions and regulations about who owns the data these products create, making it easier to get products to market. But what happens when we go back to tighter controls?

Pre- and post-COVID questions have emerged about who owns the data. And what happens to consumers’ data when companies and products go bust? Consumers are beginning to understand their data may be sold or monetised by another third party. Today, consumers may own the physical piece of technology, but the business administers the digital side—effectively retaining ownership over part of what makes the product valuable. Consumers are becoming more aware of this relationship, so businesses need to do more to demonstrate how their intentions are aligned with consumers.

Test and learn

New never-ready products require a new deployment method. Even the technology itself will be different a month or two after an organisation deploys it. Therefore, healthcare entities have to build a test and learn capability into the operating structure. Testing and learning poses challenges for healthcare as it is a higher liability industry that commonly seeks to minimise variation within a process. So how do you reconcile the need for higher reliability with test and learn? Reliability is about outcomes and not process. Healthcare organisations will find that their ability to iterate and improve products (and outcomes) over time will continue to grow exponentially as the data they use becomes more granular. With the right data, an organisation can create a mirror image—a digital twin—that is testing hypotheticals or simulating scenarios related to never-ready products and sending information back to vendors to continue to improve the solutions. Testing products and services in hypothetical ways will allow the organisation to understand how to maximise the value of the technology and to mitigate risk of deployment in critical areas.

More than half (58%) of health organisations believe customers generally don’t mind, or even welcome, software updates to their organisation’s connected products and services.

Design for trust

Experience-driven products are redefining the relationship between people and organisations. Healthcare organisations are not only buying physical goods, but also opting into an ongoing partnership with the companies managing those products. This is an important consideration for healthcare organisations increasingly deploying hardware with a service component.

Service consumption models are changing and becoming more circular. Products are no longer static; they are now “living.” So, if you have an old robot and you’re running on an old operating system, it presents a massive security risk. In healthcare, it’s especially important to design technology products and services with trust and extendibility in mind. Think through connected products and ensure the business has a strategy and clear understanding around maintaining the security of any devices they bring into their work environments.

Quality care at home

ChristianaCare rolled out a virtual primary care subscription service to monitor and treat patients at home. The service includes ongoing monitoring of those with chronic conditions. Patients can use a portable device to allow providers to check vitals and perform other diagnostics. The organisation shifted its use of this service during the pandemic to monitor patients for COVID-19. Healthcare workers check in many times per day with patients to see how their symptoms are progressing. Responses are logged and doctors and nurses monitor these responses 24/7 through a dashboard system. Patients that show signs of decline are scheduled for video visits to determine whether in-person care is needed.3 ChristianaCare has increased its outreach to vulnerable populations by providing devices and broadband data plans so patients can safely receive medical advice about COVID-19 from home.4

What can healthcare leaders do next?

Understand the “beta burden”

A wellspring of opportunity, if mishandled it risks leaving people overwhelmed, frustrated, endangered and wary of what’s around the corner.

Consider how ownership is changing

Healthcare organisations must retain some control and responsibility over a device, even after a consumer adopts it.

Design for the journey

Organisations have to design products to evolve and transform over time, releasing products they might conventionally see as “unfinished.

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1Consumers Are More Willing to Share Private Data During COVID-19, but Are Wary of Long-Term Ramifications;” eMarketer; April 22, 2020;
2Zoom security issues: Zoom buys security company, aims for end-to-end encryption;” cInet; May 8, 2020;
3 “Here's how doctors are monitoring more than 350 Delaware coronavirus patients virtually;” Delaware Online, April 3, 2020; delawareonline.com
4ChristianaCare got funding to make telemedicine more accessible to vulnerable communities;” Technical.ly; April 27, 2020;

Kaveh Safavi

Senior Managing Director – Consulting, Global Health


Brian Kalis

Managing Director – Strategy, Health

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