John Berndt, SVP Health for North America at Valtech 

The digital health market is projected to grow at a compound annual rate of approximately 25% from 2019 to 2025, according to NASDAQ. Needs for digital projects and initiatives have never been higher.

However, investments in the sector, including in digital tech, have remained under tremendous scrutiny since the pandemic. As this trend continues in 2024, it’s more important than ever for digital healthcare professionals to scrutinize their roadmaps and strategies. They must exercise caution to sidestep potentially damaging pitfalls that could render their projects unsuccessful, especially the following seven:

1. Acquiring martech/DXP technology without developing a staffed practice

The boom of marketing technology (martech) and digital experience platform (DXP) technology across various industries globally is undeniable, evidenced by Forrester predicting spending will reach a massive $148 billion this year. It can be tempting for healthcare professionals to jump on the bandwagon, but rushing to do so can be a mistake. And simply acquiring the technology is insufficient. 

Oftentimes, healthcare companies don’t plan and prioritize staffing in tandem. They should be building practices alongside their martech and DXP tech acquisitions. This is crucial. Without the right expertise, technology may be underutilized. A specialized individual or team is needed to understand, implement and optimize it – ensuring alignment with organizational goals and maximizing results. Let’s look at customer data platforms (CDPs), for example. To perform best, a CDP must have a dedicated owner who understands the technology and can align the practice with many other stakeholders.

Failing to invest in human infrastructure may result in operational inefficiencies and missed opportunities in marketing and customer experience efforts.

2. Having too many sources of truth

In the pursuit of information accuracy, it’s important to steer clear of multiple sources of truth. Conflicting messages can arise from inconsistent data or messaging, and as a result, inaccurate or outdated information may be delivered to customers. Ultimately, this can erode trust, cause confusion, and damage a brand’s credibility. 

To ensure consistent and accurate customer communication, healthcare companies must centralize their information and maintain a single, reliable source of truth. 

3. Allowing technical taxonomies to overly drive user experience

Balancing healthcare’s technical taxonomies with more colloquial, user-centric engagement is key. Outside of some academic medical use cases, patients need more opportunities to approach subject matter through the way they understand it in everyday life. Medical jargon can create problems — and “plain language” is often preferred. 

Allowing the taxonomies of medicine to excessively influence user experience can impede and discourage engagement. Especially since users often have their unique, colloquial perspectives on health topics that are more relevant and conducive to effective engagement. For example, patients may understand medical concepts better when presented in everyday language, fostering a more user-friendly healthcare experience and promoting greater patient engagement. 

4. Neglecting HIPAA-protected and unprotected experiences

Navigating the evolving boundaries and legitimate gray areas of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPPA) is a difficult feat. For example, behavioral tracking is now considered Patient Healthcare information (PHI) in North America, making analytics and personalization much higher risks and more complicated to implement. The process entails either adopting new technologies, slowing down old technologies or adding additional layers to anonymize tracking data within an entity that’s willing to take the legal risk of PHI. This adjustment is driving both challenges and improvements in people’s behavioral data practices that are crucial for analytics, optimization and personalization. 

Additionally, healthcare companies are experiencing increasing pressure for novel customer flows and new scheduling experiences, which imply greater custom development with high HIPAA-risk overhead. Headless, MACH and other emergent architectures and MarTech solutions are also further changing many technical and legal risks. It’s essential to be aware of these developments and incorporate thorough assessments of this technology into your planning.  

5. Saturating channels with too many messages

Overextending the use of various platforms to serve the same communication channels can create issues related to misaligned experiences and governance. When an organization employs multiple systems for a form of communication, such as sending text messages, it can lead to a lack of consistency and coordination in messaging. 

For instance, one department might use one platform to send promotional text messages to customers, while another department uses a different system for transactional updates. This lack of integration and standardized processes could result in customers receiving conflicting or redundant messages, causing confusion and diminishing the overall quality of their interaction with the company. This not only hampers the customer experience but can also create challenges in maintaining effective governance and messaging coherence.

6. Overdoing personalization

While personalization can be a potent tool due to the sensitivity of health-related information, it should be approached with caution. Today, customer privacy concerns are paramount, as shown by the changing HIPAA rules. It’s important for healthcare companies to be aware that overuse of personalization can be detrimental and easily cross the line into inappropriate. 

For example, large language models (LLMs), which are more powerful versions of chatbots, have emerged as a new form of personalization in the industry. As they continue to progress, they will make conversational user interfaces (CUI) a much larger driver of customized healthcare experiences. However, companies must proceed carefully with implementation.

It’s crucial to strike the right balance. Digital teams should ensure their personalization efforts respect patients’ privacy and boundaries to avoid any negative or uncomfortable experiences.

7. Generic brand impressions 

As with other industries, effective healthcare branding can be a linchpin for attracting and retaining patients. Unfortunately, too many digital transformations are undercut by uninspired designs that leave the customer feeling underwhelmed, even if the functionality itself is outstanding.  

Roughly 80% of prospective patients use online reviews when selecting a new healthcare provider, and almost 75% will choose one physician over another because of negative feedback. Clearly, customer opinions greatly matter – and companies have been making this a priority to build brand trust. Healthcare advertising spending increased by 11.5% in 2022, and healthcare digital ad spending in the U.S. was projected to increase by 10% in 2023.

In these investments and throughout their digital transformation projects, healthcare companies must strive to avoid generic brand impressions at all costs by prioritizing opportunities for differentiation and delight. Only then will their efforts be fully adopted and valued.

Meeting 2024 goals and beyond

Currently, consumer healthcare is facing a high-risk, high-reward situation. Customer loyalty is extremely low, but those who get the customer experience right have the potential to drive significant value. The continued scrutiny of digital investments has put increased pressure on healthcare digital initiatives to meet goals. However, success could open the door to increased budgets and C-level support for more projects down the road. As healthcare professionals gear up for another year of digital transformation, making informed, strategic decisions and seeking the right assistance is paramount. Otherwise, they’re setting themselves up for failure from the get-go.

About John Berndt 
John Berndt is the SVP of Valtech Health, a global agency focused on digital business transformation, with a special focus on consumer healthcare in North America. The practice is staffed by a global team of experts, is broad and includes consulting, technology platforms and integrations, strategy, user experience, analytics, operations, managed services, custom applications, and more.