Most of the decisions I have made in my career have been data-driven. But sometimes, I had to make decisions with time or information constraints that required making judgement calls not susceptible to analysis. I want to present one such judgement call that I made recently and describe the decision-making rationale behind it.
As a Product Analyst at Brightlamp, I had to identify and prioritize target markets to devise market entry methods for Brightlamp’s patented technology called Reflex.
Reflex is a smartphone application that utilizes the camera and flash present in a device to objectively detect concussion and other brain injuries in an individual.
Although I had identified the market segments for Reflex through primary and secondary research, I had to make a judgement call to recommend targeting the Athletic Trainers’ market first. The goal of this paper is to reflect on the framework that I used and the factors that influenced my decision-making process.
A concussion is a temporary loss of brain function caused by a sudden impact to your head or body.
Since the brain is surrounded by fluid, any sudden impact can alter the position of the brain inside the skull, damaging the brain cells and affecting the functionality of the brain. A concussion is referred to as a mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) and is non-life-threatening. Symptoms of a concussion are usually temporary and may include headache, vomiting, nausea, ringing in the ears, loss of memory and problems with concentration, vision, speech, balance, and coordination.
Since the signs and symptoms of concussion can be subtle, it’s possible to have a concussion and not realize it.
Although symptoms of a concussion usually go away in a few days or weeks, cumulative effects of multiple brain injuries can last longer and lead to Dementia or Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a slowly progressive brain disease that can affect your cognitive and behavioral thinking leading to depression and suicidal thoughts in individuals. Hence, the detection and treatment of concussion become extremely important.
Brightlamp is a software company that specializes in building smartphone-based solutions for professionals in the healthcare industry. Brightlamp believed that the current clinical standards for monitoring neurological disorders such as concussions are subjective, time-consuming and inaccurate and that the company’s patented ground-breaking technology application called Reflex would provide the necessary breakthrough to provide better results.
In the United States, Medical Devices that are intended to cure or diagnose diseases are regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and are broadly classified into 3 categories based on the level of risk the device poses to the patient/user –
Class I – low to moderate risk e.g. hand-held surgical instruments, examination gloves
Class II – moderate to high risk e.g. acupuncture needles, powered wheelchairs
Class III – high risk e.g. defibrillators, breast implants
Depending on the use cases and the risk factor, medical devices would need additional FDA clearance to serve markets. Reflex was classified as a Class I device.
Based on my initial market research, I narrowed down the potential target market segments for Reflex into the following –
1. Athletic Trainers
2. Primary Care Physicians (PCP) – General Practitioners, Pediatrician
3. Emergency Room Personnel – ER Physicians, Nurse Practitioners, Physician Assistant
4. Specialists – Neurologists, Sports Medicine Physicians
Unfortunately, due to time and information constraints, I had to rely on my judgement to recommend which market segment to target first. In order to make this decision, I evaluated each one of these alternatives (market segments) based on the following factors –
Since the secondary data on Patient to Provider information was very limited, I had to build a Clinical Decision Tree to identify all the key stakeholders in the Concussion Diagnosis and Treatment Ecosystem. The Clinical Decision Tree is a Patient Journey Mapping Process that explains the following – What is the sequence of visits, tests, meetings as patients go from initial contact to diagnosis to treatment?
Based on the Clinical Decision Tree, I identified 3 stages in Concussion Diagnosis and Treatment Process –
1. Primary Stage – The Initial Evaluation
2. Secondary Stage – Full Diagnosis and Primary Care
3. Tertiary Stage – Referral and Follow Ups
By identifying the point of contact at each one of these stages and combining the results with available secondary data, I recorded that Athletic Trainers had the highest patient-to-provider ratio, compared to other segments.
The next challenge was to measure the rate of adoption of new technologies among these alternatives to identify the Innovators, Early Adopters, and Laggards for Reflex.
In order to determine the rate of adoption, I used Roger Everett’s Diffusion of Innovation Framework to evaluate each alternative on the following factors –
1) Relative Advantage – Is Reflex better than the technology it supersedes?
2) Compatibility – Is Reflex compatible with the existing processes and needs of potential adopters?
3) Complexity vs. Simplicity – Is Reflex easy to use (intuitive)?
4) Trialability – Is Reflex available for a trial before the actual purchase?
5) Observability – Are the benefits of Reflex visible to others?
All the 4 alternatives ranked the same on Relative Advantage, Compatibility and Simplicity factors but Athletic Trainers ranked the highest on the remaining two – Trialability and Observability factors.
In terms of Trialability, Athletic Trainers are known to be extremely tech-savvy and are open to trying new technologies. On the other hand, the remaining market segments would need additional clinical validation and FDA approval to try Reflex. In terms of Observability, the very nature of the Athletic Trainers gives Reflex the exposure it needs. Using Reflex to check whether an Athlete is fit to play or not on the field, in the presence of a large audience and other Athletic Trainers will provide Reflex all the free marketing it needs to improve the rate of adoption.
Based on Roger’s Five Forces, I categorized the 4 alternatives into the following –
Initially, Brightlamp had targeted just Primary Care Physicians. In terms of Value Proposition, Brightlamp had estimated that since Reflex was 6 times faster than existing technologies, the total time saved in a year could be translated into more patients and hence into additional revenues for PCPs. Unfortunately, on a per patient basis, this estimation seemed unrealistic and after conducting in-person interviews with PCPs, I realized that the physicians would rather use the time saved for personal breaks.
So, my final challenge was to define the unique value proposition for Reflex and determine which market segment would benefit the most with this new solution – What value does Reflex deliver to its customers?
d. Emotion – Does it have an emotional value?
After careful evaluation of each market segment, I observed that Reflex’s Unique Value Proposition was that it could provide the results in a matter of seconds and the one target segment that would benefit the most with this capability was the Athletic Trainers market. Athletic Trainers have to make a split-second decision on the field to let an athlete continue or stop playing after getting a hit on the body or head. The existing technologies take close to 20 mins and are not reliable. Athletic Trainers would benefit immensely with this new piece of technology that can provide reliable and accurate results in less than 10 secs.
Overall, after evaluating each of the market segments on the three key factors, I decided to make a judgement call to recommend entering the Athletic Trainers market first.
In order to make the judgement call, I had to first create a customer journey map to identify all the key stakeholders in the market. Next, I had to gain insights about the key customer pain points and then make recommendations that would not only benefit the key stakeholders in the long term but also provide Reflex the market leadership advantages it needs.
Based on my recommendation, Brightlamp targeted the Athletic Trainers market and launched Reflex in 6 months instead of the previously estimated time of 18 months. The goal was also long term and not really focused on gaining short term goals.
The judgement call to enter the Athletic Trainers market first was important because Brightlamp had previously planned on entering the concussion industry after 18 months because they believed the markets they had targeted would require FDA approval and in order to enter the market they would need clinical validation. By entering the Athletic Trainers market that did not require FDA clearance they can test their product and make additional changes from their mistakes and failures to build a product that can be used by all the stakeholders. This strategy also Brightlamp to launch its product in 1/3rd of the previously estimated time and at the same time build the necessary clinical validation to launch future products. entered the Athletic Trainers market through the marketing channels I had identified to connect with the Key Opinion Leaders in the Athletic Trainers’ market. On May 4, 2019, Brightlamp received a $250,000 grant from the Purdue Investment Fund Board to ramp up its efforts in the Athletic Trainers Market. I also set up a meeting with the Athletic Trainers at Purdue and Brightlamp received approval from the Purdue Football team as a test project to measure the efficacy of the Reflex application.