Selecting a Target Market: A Look at the Healthcare Industry

Imagine your life without over-the-counter medications, at-home testing supplies, and walk-in clinics. Managing your health would be challenging and cost-prohibitive. Innovations that simplify and broaden the reach of treatment are ubiquitous, but this was not always the case. Many within the healthcare industry have historically resisted change, due to questions of efficacy and ethics, stating their industry is “different” than other industries in its ability to innovate. We can very easily identify that this thinking is destructive, as improved access to non-consumers has revolutionized this industry.


The authors of Seeing What’s Next argue that it is important to continue innovating and targeting new markets, despite a resistance to change within an industry. Using healthcare as an example, they illustrate how successful disruptions target non-consumers and overshot providers. The at-home pregnancy test is a great example of this theory. For decades, doctors and patients relied on antiquated techniques to confirm pregnancy, delaying pre-natal care and restricting this care to the highest-level providers. With the introduction of the at-home pregnancy test in the 1970s, women were now able to diagnose pregnancy at home, and receive care earlier in their pregnancies – improving their overall pre-natal health, and the health of their unborn child.


We take this innovation for granted, but it developed out of a strong need to serve overshot consumers who could not afford expensive pre-natal care. It also improved a provider’s ability to manage this care, by passing off treatment to less-skilled providers within their network due to increased reliability of testing methods. This innovation, and innovations like it, afford higher-skilled providers more time to treat riskier cases, and become more specialized as a result. These are all good things for everyone involved!


In considering a target market, it becomes important to consider the “what” and the “who” – in the case of healthcare, this translates to the “right conditions” and “providers.” By carefully examining their market, innovators can find disruptive opportunities in any sector. The most successful and broad-reaching healthcare innovations develop out of a need for accessible treatment for common conditions within an overshot or non-consumer population of patients and providers. When a patient or provider’s frame of reference is “nothing,” just about any innovation would be a welcome addition, and could have the power to re-shape the industry.


In selecting target markets, innovators must also consider the “how” – in the case of healthcare, this translates to a patient’s access to information. Imagine your life without WebMD or similar resource innovations — you would likely spend a lot more time and money at the doctor’s office for simple ailments that you can triage and potentially treat at home or with the help of a walk-in clinic. This is not to say that innovation at the higher-end of medicine is unnecessary, or that patients should always self-diagnose, but it proves that concentrating innovative efforts in this realm is not nearly as far-reaching.


Innovators have a lot to learn from the past and present changes in the healthcare industry:

  • Innovation is possible in nearly every industry, despite any historical resistance to change in that industry. Innovators must carefully select and target non-consumers, thinking “outside the box” of their industry to do so.
  • Innovators must constantly re-frame the mechanisms they use to reach consumers, as the world is ever-evolving. As the old adage goes, “doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results is the definition of insanity.”
  • Through careful consideration of available resources, technology and regulations, innovators can put plans into action more effectively. There will always be rules and guidelines that influence innovation, and the best innovators find ways to seamlessly integrate despite these restrictions.


Source: Christensen, C.M., Anthony, S.D., & Roth, E.A. (2004). Seeing What’s Next: Using the Theories of Innovation to Predict Industry Change. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Publishing Company

2 thoughts on “Selecting a Target Market: A Look at the Healthcare Industry

  1. Hi Jeanette,

    This was a very thoughtful and well written post. It really is quite extraordinary to think how different things are now from the way they used to be in regard to convenience and accessibility. I work at retailer that specializes in almost all of the products you mentioned, and it would be crazy to think that people used to have to jump through hoops to get those products! But alas, the beauty of innovation, entrepreneurship, and capitalism have allowed for the public to win in this case.

    Well done,

  2. Jeanette,
    Health care is such a confusing thing especially for me not growing up in this country to see what is here in comparison to other countries.
    All in all I see this country has many wonderful accomplishments in the health field as for a options not available to many situations I grew up with.
    Now I also see that there are many different ways to come up with the same help here and each way costs different or you must jump through different hoops depending who your dealing with.
    Thanks for this post,

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