Building an MVP for Medical Startups: Steps & Tips to Follow

29 June10 min read
Building an MVP for Medical Startups: Steps & Tips to Follow

To become recognizable and prominent, the medical business has to bear a lot of expenses: money, time, and effort. All these resources today are worth their weight in gold. Given the lightning-quick growth and, at the same time, the volatility of the digital medical business, you have almost no margin for error. In the best-case scenario of your project development, you may cover some costs that could have been avoided. However, in the worst-case scenario, one that has recently become more common among startups, your project may fail. Indeed, two-thirds of startups never show a positive return. 

What are the reasons behind this grave statistic? There is more than one... But the main thing is the lack of thoughtful market entry planning. The planning process itself is quite time-consuming and labor-intensive. It can involve meticulous research of the market segment, customers' problems, current tech innovations, and a number of other aspects, which eventually lead to the following picture — "our future solution and stages of its implementation". 

What to do? Although it is a challenge to briefly describe the most relevant tips for a successful project kick-start, we are going to give it a try. In a nutshell: it is advisable to find the very idea out of a pile of similar ones and check its feasibility in practice. If done faithfully, the "idea" (aka product) should resonate in your audience's hearts and solve their pain points. 

How to do it? It is where a minimum viable product (MVP) development can be a great growth engine for your project. Keep reading to learn more about building an MVP for startups and how to go through it for your health-tech startup to take off? 

An MVP is not about a small and low-quality version of your product

There is such a misconception in the IT environment that an MVP is some small half-baked version of a future application that is still in the bug-fixing phase. But in fact, an MVP can be defined as the initial bag-free version of the product with the main feature(s) built into it. Moreover, it should be clinically tested to comply with medical requirements. 

“If you want to go fast, start with a quality focus.” – Steve McConnell 

An MVP is a code-embedded product with key (valuable) features ONLY, ready for release. If it withstands practical testing by the audience, other features can then be added to create a full version of the product (of course, growth has no limits, and the solution can continue to expand its functionality in the future).

An MVP can be regarded as:

  • A minimum set of valuable features ready for testing by the audience.
  • One of the stages of creating the final version of your healthcare solution.

And, more importantly, it makes the team understand the product value without significant expenses, as well as assess the chances of its further development. 

Can I do without an MVP?

Of course, you can, but will it be reasonable in today's highly competitive environment? Before putting the idea on the back burner in the hope of speeding up time-to-market, let’s take a look at the benefits of having an MVP development phase for your healthcare startup: 

  • Cut engineering costs

Firstly, the cost of developing an app that includes only the most vital functionality is much lower than the cost of a full-scale project rollout.

Secondly, an MVP is still a kind of a test version of your potential product, but the approval stage takes place not among testers but users. So if it fails, your business will incur lower expenses than in the case of a multifunction solution. 

  • Possibility to effectively improve the final product

Audience approval of your MVP allows you to move to the next iteration and enhance the software with additional features. It's like a layer cake: each top layer complements the one underneath, and you end up with a cake that your audience enjoys. 

  • Testing your business idea

The creation of a digital medical product is not just code and a pleasant-looking interface but something more: a process of building strategies, testing ideas, learning your audience, figuring out how to attract users, and the list goes on and on. 

How will the audience perceive the product, how engaged will users be, and how quickly will the user flow? An MVP release can provide the answers (i.e. valuable feedback).

  • Save time

This is probably the most important point. Would you rather spend months developing an application that might fail or use that same time to create a scalable and user-friendly solution? The answer is self-evident. An MVP allows you to speed up the process of testing the idea for viability and start product deployment quicker, with a solid foundation already in place.

Therefore, it is desirable to consider the MVP creation if:

  • You have a limited investment cap.
  • You wish to mitigate financial risks.
  • You want to test a business idea for viability quickly and efficiently, and be sure to take the next investment steps.
  • You have a first-of-its-kind med-related idea and have proven its feasibility in the research and planning phases.
  • You want to make your startup cost- and time-effective.

Note: Having a ready-made MVP on board does not guarantee 100% success in the future (in fact, nothing can guarantee the ultimate success), but it diminishes the financial risks and supports the design of a more value-added and powerful medical solution.

Building an MVP for medical startups: 4 stages to perform

In 2016, the mobile health market was valued at $23 billion worldwide. It is expected to reach $56.8 billion in 2022 [4] and $190 billion by 2025. This is one of the most remarkable levels of growth in the digital medical sector, according to Statista [5].

Given the rapidly growing trend toward the adoption of digital solutions in the healthcare industry, the competition in the marketplace is intense. The right approach to project delivery will more than likely propel your company to the forefront. It all starts small...with an MVP. How to develop it effectively?

Stage 1. Analyzing

  • Requirement collection

Building an MVP for startups in the healthcare industry has its pitfalls. One of them is the specific requirements for these kinds of products, especially those that deal with processing, storing, and transmitting private medical data. Usually, medical applications need HIPAA, DPA, and GDPR compliance, but they are not limited to these standards. To make your potential solution as secure as possible for both your organization and your users (patients and/or HCPs), it is necessary to gather the requirements in advance. 

The requirements are determined by what the solution is for and who will use it (Europeans, Canadians, Japanese, etc.). For example, what you can do:

  • Contact local authorities and find out compliance laws.
  • Identify specific rules for data management and access control.
  • Find a vendor who is aware of the specific regulatory requirements and can help with the project, including on a legal level.
  • Market research

Whether you already have a well-defined idea or are still in the discovery phase, market research is an integral part of any pre-development phase. As mentioned at the beginning of this article, poor planning (or lack thereof) of go-to-market is one of the main reasons why a fledgling business ​​suffers a setback. To move to the next stage — planning — you need to have a strong background about what is happening in the market, what it lacks, and whether your product can address the needs of your target audience. 

Of course, this stage is not limited to the market. It also involves researching competitors, audiences, medical-related issues, and looking for reasonable solutions.

Stage 2. Planning

Once you and your team have gathered the necessary "theoretical" information, studied successful business cases, and prioritized the idea that will be the basis of your MVP — it's time to start planning. 

  • Understand workflow

Before you start planning what the product will look like and what it will include, you should first provide all the data collected earlier in an easy-to-understand format. For example, you can make a prototype (actually, it is a must), assign responsibilities to the team, set up a workflow and timeline, and map out a product journey. You can think of marketing strategies to promote the project later on.

  • Prioritize features

MVP is the minimum possible number of features. Thus, at this stage, it is necessary to single out the most valuable functions from all those which should be in your "ideal" potential product. How to do it?

  • Define the steps a user will take when dealing with your product.
  • Make a list of features for each step.
  • Select only the main feature for each step.

You can also divide all possible functions of a potential solution into two groups: high-priority and low-priority. Then select the most important among the high-priority ones. You can also follow the Kano prioritization model — the allocation of functions according to the level of customer satisfaction with each of them. Or apply the so-called MoSCoW approach — the prioritization of features according to Must have, Should have, Could have, and Won't have.

Stage 3. Building

This stage is the most time-consuming and essential since you are laying the foundation for the profitable growth of your solution. It includes four main sub-stages:

  • Tech stack choosing
  • The back-end and front-end development
  • Design
  • Testing.

It is recommended to focus on the tech stack that will provide maximum security for medical data. The tools should exclude backend vulnerabilities to protect MVPs from cyber threats, DDoS attacks, and other risks. Moreover, try to choose a tech stack that will not interfere with further scale-up and integration, facilitating any further iterations.

In turn, testing at each stage of product design allows you to "polish" the solution and reduce the likelihood of its further inoperability. It is advisable to include alpha, beta, and feedback testing in the development workflow to improve the quality of the final product version and meet the users’ needs.

“The main reason why products fail is that they don’t meet customers’ needs in a way that is better than other alternatives.” – Dan Olsen [6]

Stage 4. Launching and learning

Users' needs have been taken into account, a user-friendly interface has been achieved, testing on all fronts has been passed, and the "warming up interest" marketing campaign has started its activities — the launch time has come. 

What is important in this post-development phase? It is vital to hear your audience, draw the right conclusions and make further decisions. If the product's performance hits the KPIs and users are satisfied, then you can plan the next iteration to scale the MVP into something more feature-rich. If the product doesn't live up to expectations, it's a great lesson to start the next iteration to address the shortcomings. At least now you have the most important things: experience in MVP development and user feedback. This means all is not lost!

How to measure MVP success:

  • Engagement level
  • Customer lifetime value
  • User feedback
  • Active users percentage
  • Customer acquisition cost
  • Churn rate.

Top 3 mistakes while building an MVP

  1. Ignoring the importance of the research stage

Tight deadlines and, consequently, an unrelenting desire to release a product as soon as possible are quite normal when dealing with high competition. However, in the pursuit of "being first," companies often do not spend enough time researching and studying both the market and their user profile. Of course, the solution development process itself is essential for achieving effective metrics. However, properly chosen technology, experienced developers, and a good design won't have a lasting mesmerizing effect if users don't find what they need.

  1. Skipping the prototype stage

Because of the relative lack of experience, some startups, aiming to shorten the time, ignore prototypes as an essential stage of product engineering. Jumping from the ideation stage to development can be a costly mistake. Prototyping helps to facilitate the further design process and make your product more enduring. Users are attracted to the design first, and only then to the product's filling (aka its functionality).

  1. Feature overload

Don't forget that the MVP is the finished but still initial stage of the final software development. Being able to separate the important from the most important is the basis of building any medical MVP. Don't overload the users — let them get acquainted with the minimum set of features and see their reactions to then make an informed decision.

MVP development, in comparison to creating a full-featured solution, does not require significant time and money expenses. However, the backbone of this seemingly simple process is the right talent on board. When dealing with a medical product, a technically and medically savvy team is a must on the way to both delivering an MVP and further solution evolution.