10 market questions for valuing mobile health apps

A mobile developer at work (Jennifer 8 Lee/Flickr)

Keeley Wray (@Market_Spy) is technology marketing specialist at Children’s Hospital Boston’s Technology and Innovation Development Office. Her post first appeared on Hospital Impact and is re-posted here with kind permission.

My role at Children’s Hospital Boston is to determine market entry strategies to transform the innovative ideas our physicians come up with into nifty products.

Increasingly, this includes valuing new mobile applications. There are sets of questions I like to ask inventors (and myself) to determine whether a product is worth investing resources in. Given the limited resources available to develop new applications, it’s important to know whether an application will provide value to patients, within our institution and externally, and (a harder question) whether it could be commercially viable. Several commercial barriers tend to come up repeatedly, such as security challenges, limited market size, or difficulty integrating applications with EMR systems.

That’s why this question list has served me well–and maybe it will you.

10 questions for valuing a new mobile app:

  1. Is there an unmet need? Why do you feel it is important to conduct this task or have this information available on a mobile device? Do other institutions have the same need?
  2. What are the competing products on the market already? How is this approach different; what is the competitive advantage?
  3. Who are the app’s intended end-users? Do they have the necessary knowledge and training to interact with the application in a way that generates desired results?
  4. What is the relationship between the app and the EMR? Is the end-user required to enter information that is already entered in the EMR? Would there be a way to automatically populate the app with that information? If the app is providing some intelligence, decision support, or other valuable information, will this information be captured in the EMR?
  5. What security specifications will be required to protect the patient’s personal data? Which pieces of data need to be encrypted?
  6. What is the scope of development? Or, put another way, what exactly needs to be built to get to an alpha or beta version? Does the inventor have a storyboard explaining how the end-user will interact with the device? Which of the elements might pose technical or design challenges?
  7. What would end-users be willing to pay to use this application, if anything? If they’re not willing to purchase the app, is there any other mechanism to generate revenue using this application?
  8. Once the app is built, how will you distribute it to other potential end-users? Would you need a marketing partner, or can you get the word out through grassroots channels?
  9. Is there any intellectual property associated with this app? Is there any proprietary data or algorithms involved? How can these innovations be leveraged and protected to create value in a commercial setting?
  10. What type of work would be required to maintain the content or provide service help to users? Do you need an external partner to take on these responsibilities or can you handle them within the institution using existing resources?

For product developers at a company, the questions may be somewhat different, but many will be the same. In the academic setting, they can help innovation teams overcome their myopia due to institutional bias: Often our projects arise organically from the needs the clinicians see day to day, such as inefficiencies in care, but what solves our problems and integrates with our clinical protocols may not be feasible or needed beyond our walls. So we work together as a team to find the answers, steer our concept toward something more universal, understand market forces that may help or hinder our project, and determine what types of proof-of-concept studies would enable us to decide whether to invest further resources.

What questions would you add to this list?