One of the lasting impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the emergence of the at-home/personal diagnostics and personal testing market. Seemingly overnight, diagnostics and testing went from the traditional, go-to-the-doctor-and-get-a-referral process to consumers wanting more control, to do it themselves within the safety of their homes and needing immediate results. We saw this fundamental change among all populations; from parents to healthcare workers, from people craving travel to families longing to see each other. The rise of the home care and testing market has had an irreversible impact on healthcare as a whole. The empowered and informed patient will now enter their doctors’ offices and clinics with an initial understanding of the state of their health. Purely from a logistical standpoint, this is a major evolutionary shift within the healthcare system.

Separately from the quickly adapting healthcare ecosystem, the financial impact of at-home diagnostics is eye-opening. Recent analysis suggests the home diagnostic market is set to emerge as one of the fastest-growing markets within the healthcare space, expected to reach $32 billion by 2027 with a growth rate of 11%. For context, this level of growth almost surpasses what is seen within the oncology space, which currently is by far the most dynamic area within the pharma and healthcare space.

Whether it be flu, RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) or COVID-19, personal diagnostics will play a significant and ongoing role in the future of healthcare, and it is highly probable that additional testing indications will continue to be available to patients. With a growing suite of competitors entering into the emerging personal diagnostics market, understanding the potential impact for your brand is one thing; knowing how to be successful and drive growth within this space is a whole different story. For marketers, this presents a unique opportunity, to build up a brand new personal diagnostic space — and we believe that there are a few key areas that will need to be considered. 

Define and redefine the overarching customer journey and experience

For the purpose of personal diagnostics, there is no existing customer journey or defined experience. Unlike traditional diagnostics, the personal experience will be a key determinant; first movers will set the category expectation and overall, and the experience will need to tie into the consumer’s journey. From the time a potential patient interacts with the diagnostic test on shelf to unwrapping to using the test, each aspect of the user experience will be a key moment in this journey. It is not simply “use and move on”; we must recognize the opportunity to treat this diagnostic experience more like a true consumer journey. We need to elevate seemingly non-medical parameters and interactions to just as important as the clinical parameters of the diagnostic test itself.

Account for seasonality driven customer segmentation

We have known for decades that flu is seasonal and recent trends suggest that a similar situation will occur with COVID-19 and other viral respiratory infections such as an RSV. Unlike a treatment-centric approach, where the assumption is that a disease can exist at any point in time, for personal diagnostics the seasonality will have to be a key assumption. This will be especially relevant when identifying segments. Segmentation will have to take into account seasonally specific customer needs and how they impact their overarching interactions. This will also ensure that the customer segments are appropriately contextualized to maximize product impact and resonance.

Leverage and position HCPs as drivers of use

When it comes to personal diagnostics, HCPs typically play a role further upstream in the treatment algorithm, especially as it applies to initial assessment and referrals once a patient presents symptoms. With personal diagnostics, HCPs can serve as the conduits to encourage their patients to proactively and frequently test themselves. Rather than influencing the journey downstream, they can almost serve as an additional communication channel to actively encourage patients to engage in personal diagnostics and streamline the overarching treatment journey.

To make a real impact for brands within the new consumer diagnostics space, marketers will need to rethink their traditional methodology and concentrate on building a category while creating experiences that will empower patients to know their (and their family’s) diagnostic status. While there are certainly learnings to explore from similar products such as CGMs (continuous glucose monitors), there is no one size fits all approach; nor should there be as nothing is more personal than one’s health. At this point, even consumers aren’t exactly sure how they themselves will start making personal diagnostics a part of the routine. But one thing is clear: there is an appetite to make self-health a part of a new healthcare routine. Marketers who make it their business to understand and swiftly address that new behavior will have an unprecedented opportunity to shape the future of this space.