Managing a product in the healthcare space is quite different than most other industries. You need to have a thorough understanding of the following:
1. What is your target population? The candidate patient for your product needs to be well-defined. Usually, the more specific, the better (at least initially). This not only factors into your regulatory path but also reimbursement decisions, targeted healthcare providers and clinical adoption.
2. What is the regulatory path? Determining the regulatory route should be done early on in the product development cycle.
3. What are reimbursement practices of similar products? Payment for the product needs to be ironed out early on too. The product may need it's own CPT codes or can it rely on existing ones. If there's no reimbursement available, then other means of payment need to be determined (patient out-of-pocket, subscription-based, value-based proposition to healthcare provider, etc.).
Some of the best practices in my experience is to know your product in and out and always consider the end user experience. Building on the basics goes a long way especially in a market that is highly competitive.
Best practices for Product Manager specifically in the healthcare field are as follows:
1. Increasing focus on solutions: Many organizations are looking to move beyond simply offering standalone, discrete products to offer different types of solutions, including bundles and integrated solutions. This trend is especially relevant for product management in the healthcare industry for several reasons. Within health IT specifically, companies have evolved from focusing on one element of the provider technology infrastructure only electronic medical records systems or only revenue cycle management and are realizing that they need to meet a wider range of needs across the hospital or health system in the face of increasing competition. Acquisitions and consolidations have also forced product teams to deal with the challenges of integrating acquired products into an increasingly complex portfolio. More broadly, changing needs for availability and continuity of healthcare information driven by everything from the focus on population health and value-based care to the blurring line between payers and providers have changed expectations for how products will provide logical interoperability. This requires looking beyond the products offered within a business unit, taking an audience-centric look at customer needs, and designing the right solutions at an enterprise level. Product management leaders need to help their teams improve their approaches for product road mapping to ensure solution roadmaps are aligned and potentially establish a solutions management function to provide oversight and increase the commercial success of integrated solutions.
2. Compliance with a defined product lifecycle process: Companies that have targeted many different industries historically may be in for a rude awakening when targeting healthcare buyers due to unique regulations and requirements for companies handling protected health information (e.g. HIPAA, HITRUST Common Security Framework) that products used in healthcare environments need to meet. Ensuring new products meet these standards and established products continue to meet them – requires that the organization follow a defined process to ensure all necessary security, privacy and compliance standards are met and documented.
3. Better understanding of users, and the various types of users: Years ago, it may have been possible to succeed with a product that decisionmakers in a healthcare organization liked, even if the end users found it difficult to use. That is no longer the case. Most decision making processes in healthcare providers and payers include involvement and feedback at some level from people who use the products e.g. research assistants using software to track the progress of a clinical trial, phlebotomists using the equipment purchased by a blood bank. Product managers need to develop a deep understanding of user needs and recognize and understand the different needs of various types of users in the healthcare value chain. For example, the users of materials to educate patients on certain medical conditions are not just the doctors and nurses who access and distribute those materials, but the patients and family members who are reading and following the instructions contained within. Product managers need to be regularly conducting research including interviews with these different user personas to help inform product strategy and identify needs and requirements.
4. Increased focus on value-based pricing: New approaches to pricing products, services and solutions are priorities for product managers in many industries, but healthcare in the US has seen significant changes in healthcare economics (e.g. bundled payments, value-based care). These changes have highlighted the need to look at the changing pricing of products for healthcare many of which used cost-plus pricing or competitive pricing to value-based pricing to better align with how healthcare providers are reimbursed. Additionally, the trend toward solutions has driven a renewed focus on how these new packaging approaches impact pricing. Product management leaders need to ensure their teams are following a best-practice approach for pricing and packaging to operationalize a value-based pricing and packaging approach.
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Gareth makes excellent points. I would also add, be sure to learn about the needs and priorities of buyers / procurement folks - as these are different from the end users and doctors, etc. Learn as much as you can on what it takes to get a purchase order from different healthcare facilities, as these processes are different. Have you done that yet?