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Implementing a Product Portfolio Strategy in Healthcare

By Marcelo Cruz Murcia - Elery.co


By Melina Cruz | CEO & Co-founder - Fri, 02/10/2023 - 11:00

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In 1970, Bruce Henderson, founder of BCG, wrote an essay called The Product Portfolio. In his essay, he wrote about and popularized the Growth Share Matrix, which would change the fabric of business strategy. The matrix was an easy and straightforward framework to assess the role and priority of different products or businesses. It is estimated that in its heyday, half of all Fortune 500 companies were using it. Since then, the matrix has evolved and businesses have become much more sophisticated about product portfolios. To give an example, in 2010 while I worked for Coca-Cola, the company was trying to implement a complex product architecture called OBPPC: Occasion, Brand, Package, Price, Channel. The premise was the right product, in the right place, at the right time, for the right price.

What is a product portfolio? The broadest definition is the list of all the products and services that a business provides to its clients. As you may imagine, this list can be extensive and complex or simple and targeted. One may drive more choice and growth, the other simplicity and profitability. Most product portfolios are supply-driven: what I as a company can deliver is what I offer. However, the most valuable product portfolios are demand-driven: what my customer wants is what I should offer.

In healthcare, most product portfolios are supply-driven; laundry lists of what a provider can treat. While this can be an ego boost that showcases all the capabilities of a physician or a clinic, many times patients do not even understand what they are reading. Very few people know what a urethrectomy or a cystectomy is and, in my opinion, very few people should actually know.

I believe, unfortunately, that the healthcare sector has not taken advantage of implementing product-portfolio strategies. There are many reasons for why this is the case. Some are inherent to the sector; some are legacy mindsets. No matter the reason, I want to share three lessons that I learned at elery.co, where we have implemented a product-portfolio strategy to attract patients and create longitudinal relationships for elective healthcare patients. I do want to make a disclaimer that these lessons do not apply to emergency care.

Lesson 1: In patients’ minds, the best healthcare products are those that are not needed. We sometimes forget that patients do not want to go to the doctor, visit a clinic, or even think about their health. If they are healthy, there is no need for healthcare. For this reason, it is very hard to design “entry products” – the product or service to have the first interaction with the patient. We believe that entry products have to be targeted to strong emotions that typically drive action: pain, fear, or shock.

Lesson 2: The most important currency is trust. In a Google and ChatGPT era, where unlimited information is a query away, it is easy to see why patients go online for a “second opinion.” Unfortunately, this creates confusion, misinformation, and data overload. The only effective counterweight to Dr. Internet, is trust. If patients trust their healthcare providers, the probability that they will follow the recommended course of action increases. This has massive implications in a healthcare product portfolio, because you need to consider how much trust a patient has in  you to sell certain products.

Lesson 3: A patient is not the same patient all the time. We have seen it many times. Patients believe that they do not need to start a treatment, go through a procedure or make lifestyle changes because “they feel fine.” A couple of weeks or months later, they have a life event or they start to feel off and they suddenly have a change of heart. It is normal. People change. Life happens. The important thing to consider is that your product portfolio has to consider the longitudinal patient journey and be ready to offer a product for whenever the patient is ready to accept it. In our case, this means that a urology patient may need six months to convince himself that he needs to manage his diabetes or hypertension. While not medically ideal, many times it is better late than never and this journey has to be considered when designing our product offerings for up- and cross-treatments.

While these lessons sound commercial (a product portfolio is commercial by nature), they do help improve access, quality, and affordability. By defining the products that your patients need, how they need them, and with the right resources assigned to them, you can create efficiencies in the system. For example, you can spend hundreds of advertising dollars trying to convince a patient to treat his hypertension by talking about how it could produce heart failure in the future. Or you can create an entry product that treats tangible symptoms of hypertension (like erectile dysfunction), build trust, and then motivate the patient to take action. In this example, long-lasting results are achieved, with fewer resources and at a lower price to the system. As long as you have the best interest of the patient in mind, using a product portfolio strategy can help improve access, quality, and affordability for the patient and profitability for the provider.

Photo by:   Marcelo Cruz Murcia

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