Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Marketing in Healthcare: a rewarding challenge

I’ve experienced first hand that it is very difficult to do marketing in healthcare, especially for an innovative or disruptive product of a startup. 

And why is that the case? There are two sides to be analyzed for this case: first the product being in healthcare, then it being a creation of a startup.

Healthcare marketing is not at all like marketing an FMCG product, for instance a lipstick. Generally what they do is just mass market it to almost all women by choosing a brand ambassador (someone very famous and beautiful of course), and share the ads everywhere, from magazines to Instagram.
Now I imagine us doing that, for instance working with Candice Swanepoel, shooting a video with her while she uses our state-of-the-art platform to visualize 3D brains and checking the regions of interest around a tumor: a) I’m not sure if she would actually accept it, b) I’m sure our current customers would be very upset, c) It would be impossible for us to reach our targets with this kind of mass marketing.

Healthcare Marketing: Traditional? Maybe not.

So what do we do in healthcare? We follow trends and customers. The two leading trends are: aging population and rise of medical data - and all issues related to that.

The demographics of different countries, especially in the EU, demand solutions for the aging population and the most recurrent diseases they suffer from. One of the most critical areas here is neuroscience as millions of elderly suffer from burdensome diseases like Alzheimer’s and the bottom line is billions of euros for the healthcare systems.

On the other side, we have a rapidly rising amount of medical data. Customers demand more insight from this data, thus turn to “big data”. The analysis of medical data is critical to, for example, see which treatments are the most effective for specific conditions, and of course, to reduce costs.

A critical issue related to this is of course the security of this data - protected health information. There is still not a widely-used, simple, and secure way to share data among parties. Rigorous regulations have to be followed, which comes with a high cost of compliance. Investigators know that it is vital to have all the data in one place to efficiently run big data analytics as big data is potentially very powerful to resolve the problems of diagnosis and prognosis thus crave for solutions.

Another vital issue in healthcare is that what you do has an actual impact on patients’ and prospective patients’ life. You are contributing to making their lives healthier and better. But what is involved is their health! So you cannot just -  in our case - say: “Use our platform, it’s 3 in 1.”, it’s not a shampoo.

It’s a medical device. Thus, the product at hand is extremely technical and complex. Nevertheless, as the marketer, you have to be as concise as possible while communicating all the necessary information so your targets can easily grasp its value.

To wrap-up, healthcare marketing is not traditional.
It’s more personal thus requires you to share informative and educating content on the problem itself.
Providing accurate and transparent information on the product and its benefits via scientific content like white papers, articles, and video tutorials is key.
You engage and build relationships with different stakeholders to understand them and better respond to their needs. You build a network, a community.
It is dire to present substantial value and clearly communicate how this value is critical in overcoming your customer’s problem.
Easy, right? No, not at all.


Nevertheless, up for the challenge, all the healthcare problems above and more have pushed our co-founders to transform their expert knowledge into a marketable product. They have created a secure and privacy-regulations-compliant cloud platform to aggregate and analyze imaging and related data in the field of neuroscience.


Startup Marketing: Why so difficult?

So now, we run into the issue that we have a startup at hand. How do we overcome the barriers and successfully market an innovative solution?
To be honest, it has been and still is a trial and error process for us, as is for most startups.

On one hand there is the economic aspect as funds are limited. It is expected that the impact is higher with less investment - a higher ROI. As a tech company, you incorporate as much digital practices as you can to be efficient while not drifting away from your focus and reaching your niche targets.

In our case, the targets are forward-thinking researchers and doctors in the field of neuroscience and pharmaceutical investigators. You cannot just run into these guys, they are very busy - either saving lives or conducting research to save more lives - and they don’t trust new technologies.

Thus, what you do first is to build a consistent and strong brand image.
You raise awareness to the problem and your existence while clearly communicating your value proposition to help and support them; in our case, how big data analytics and image processing offers invaluable insight to them.
A very engaging content-based marketing strategy helps.
Listening to your customers, hearing about their issues is vital to understand them and their decision-making, and also to adapt yourself.
You then try to figure out what are the best channels to reach them and share different & targeted content for each segment.
Nope, not easy at all…

So why do we do it?

Why go through all this trouble?
The reward is that your solution reaches those that need it the most.
For us - indirectly, we will help save millions of lives if our customers find a cure to devastating diseases with the help of our product.
It’s worth it.


You can support our efforts by canalizing your projects to our platform.

Monday, June 12, 2017

The neuroimaging industry goes open - My experience in ODINE

ODINE promotes the use of Open data

Mint Labs completed the ODINE (Open Data Incubator Europe) program, a startup acceleration program with €100,000 grant to promote the use of open data. (Ref: Mapping the brain with open data). Open data can be freely used and redistributed by anyone. There are many examples of open data, such as geography, public transformation, corporate registration and so on. The data is beneficial for scientists and companies to get detailed insights. Also, the data becomes transparent because the data owner and users are careful to keep the data quality, security and privacy.


Reference: Pixabay

Big data in Neuroscience

As Marc Andreessen famously said that “software is eating the world.”, I would say “Big data is eating the Neuroimaging industry”. IBM researchers estimate that medical images account for 90% of all medical data and they are the largest and fastest-growing data source in the healthcare industry. (Ref: IBM Unveils Watson-Powered Imaging Solutions at RSNA) The research on mining the medical data to get a better diagnosis or find a biomarker for brain disease has been a hot topic in the Neuroimaging industry.

A lot of Neuroimaging data has been shared publicly

A lot of Neuroimaging datasets are published to the scientific community as Open data including Human connectome project, ADNI, ADHD-200 among others. There are some reasons for this trend. First, Neuroimaging studies need a huge cost because MRI machines need a huge budget to install and maintain and patient selections are very difficult for a specific stage of brain diseases. The acquired medical images are quite beneficial for scientists. Second, openly shared data tend to be more accurate and have more statistical power. (Ref: A Practical Guide for Improving Transparency and Reproducibility in Neuroimaging Research). It improves reproducibility of Neuroimaging researches.

Workflow creates additional value compared to original data source

The ODINE program was a great opportunity to encourage us to work on Open data. My personal favourite activity was an interview with other matured Open data companies from different industries; Unigraph, Viomedo and OpenCorporates, . We learned from them about how to aggregate data and how to build their business. The most critical part of their business model is “added value” to users. The value added features include workflow, user interface and visualization, which drive users to visit their services rather than original Open data sources.

After completing the ODINE program, we continue to build our Open data business model by collecting more Open data and develop more features to take advantage the massive amount of Neuroimaging data. I am excited about showing it to the community soon.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

A bully's brain: new research on the maladaptive reward system

Once thought to be a rite of passage when coming-of-age, bullying has come under the scrutiny of researchers, policy makers, educators, and parents as concerns rise over the long-term effects of a bullied brain.

While the neurological effects of the bullied brain have been studied extensively, less is known about the neurological cohorts of a bully's brain. New research published by Mount Sinai's Icahn School of Medicine in New York is attempting to find the neural correlates of bullying behavior.

Aggressive and violent behaviors are thought to be linked to inappropriate activation of the brain's reward systems when exposed to aggressive stimuli. The ventromedial hypothalamus, amygdala, and limbic system are involved in initiating aggressive behaviors, but little is known about the mechanisms behind the motivation to perform aggressive or violent acts, such as bullying.