Healthcare start-ups are seeing an innovation boom – but can consumers trust them with data?

Following the Cambridge Analytica data scandal, it’s essential your health start-up builds trust into its user experience design from the start

Consumer healthcare is becoming an increasingly commercial sector, with the UK producing some of the most innovative ideas in the space.

Medical technology (medtech) and creative start-ups are spearheading this revolution, with innovative data-driven and design-led solutions that help connect consumers with their health like never before.

And it’s a sector with huge potential: as our national health service groans under the weight of growing obesity and a top-heavy age demographic, products and services that allow people to take health management into their own hands could help take the strain.

However, consumer healthcare is heavily reliant on the data of its customers at a time when, in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, trust in how organisations use data is waning. And there’s not much more sensitive than health data.

In fact, the 2018 Edelmen Trust Barometer found that trust in the healthcare sector saw a 2% decline from 2017 to 2018. Trust in platforms in the UK took a 4% hit over the same period.

So, what can start-ups do to keep consumers on side?

The space is wide open for new healthcare start-ups to put the consumer at the heart of their business and be open about how data is used.

Trust should be part of your user experience design from the start

Companies, big or small, can no longer operate with impunity in regard to data. Particularly when it comes to health data.

Because, although the collection of health data can be hugely beneficial – such as to fuel research into under investigated maladies or create predictive models around the spread of illnesses and diseases – those who do take trust for granted will find themselves quickly losing favour with their customer base.

This doesn’t mean not using that data, it just means it shouldn’t come at the expense of privacy. Users should know what data is being collected, how it is being used, and whether it is being passed onto third parties. And it’s time to put an end to impenetrable user agreements that need a doctorate to decipher.

Building trust in from the beginning requires that you design your solution around the consumer, rather than starting with the solution first. This takes a holistic approach that has the patient experience at its heart and creates a dynamic relationship with the healthcare system. As Worth Capital’s Matthew Cushen wrote in a recent blog for Startups.co.uk, too many start-ups get lost in the product development when they should actually obsess over meeting customer needs.

In a world of revolutionary and unfamiliar technologies, putting the patient first and building their trust will be vital to the success of new products and services, ensuring accurate and honest information sharing between patients and healthcare professionals.

Who are some of the start-up players in the space?

Consumer medtech is a vast emerging space. Its true potential is yet to be fully realised and it will be exciting to see what new technologies appear to further the development of personal health management.

Here are just some of the players that are disrupting the sector and using data to bring essential services to their customers:

  • Thriva a start-up that offers smart home-use finger-prick blood tests to help consumers track, understand and improve their health. The Young Gun-founded firm collects information about its clients physical and mental condition as well as biometric data
  • Cupris – a start-up that turns consumer’s smartphones into medical devices, allowing healthcare professionals and their patients to communicate over a secure platform including the sharing of clinical images and medical history
  • Motus Innovations – this business gives stroke sufferers independence with wearable robotics and gamified software that help them recover the use of their limbs. The technology can even track and predict recovery status

Today, data is inextricably linked with effective and efficient health delivery. However, the way in which that data is managed or the relationship that patients have with the healthcare system as a result of it have yet to catch up with this trend.

Health start-ups seeking to succeed in this changing world, need to start with the patient first, designing in trust with them as well as a dynamic relationship with the healthcare provider.

Elmwood, the brand design consultancy, has opened applications for Elmwood LaunchPod – an accelerator inviting diverse health start-ups the chance to access 12-weeks of expert mentoring, growth networks, workspace and, potentially, funding at its Leeds design studio. Applications close on Monday 23 July.