Advice for mobile health app startups looking for early patient testers: Just think social

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Jacqueline Ubiqi

When it came time to test the first version of its new mobile app for people with migraines, the team at Ubiqi Health assumed that physician referrals would be the most important avenue for initially recruiting patient users.

The team learned quickly that although physician buy-in is an important piece of a long-term strategy, doctors were already overloaded with information and didn’t necessarily believe that most patients would use a tool until they saw it being used.

With very little money and without a real marketing budget, Ubiqi turned to social media. Co-founder and CEO Jacqueline Thong said the company’s grassroots approach started with reaching out to support groups at the National Headache Foundation. A few people there were willing to make posts about the app and send a blast to their email list calling for alpha testers. The founders also formed a support group of their own for migraine sufferers through Meetup.

Thong said the team also looked to patient networks and social media to find activists and bloggers who would spread the word. In turn, more patients began to promote Ubiqi’s message through Twitter and patient communities.

“You get an engaged, loyal base that talks about this all the time, and they’re able to share their successes, and they’re also the ones who give us product feedback,” she said.

An added bonus was that these socially engaged patients are the ones who are likely the most proactive in sharing information with their doctors, which widens the referral loop. Thong said she’s been getting emails from doctors whose patients have showed them reports from the app, and who are making suggestions for improvement and saying they plan to recommend the app for other patients with migraines. “That would take care of the most passive patients who will take advice from their doctors,” she said.

Ubiqi’s app has been on the market for about a year and a half, and the company just raised a seed round to develop a next-generation version.

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Deanna Pogorelc

By Deanna Pogorelc MedCity News

Deanna Pogorelc is a Cleveland-based reporter who writes obsessively about life science startups across the country, looking to technology transfer offices, startup incubators and investment funds to see what’s next in healthcare. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Ball State University and previously covered business and education for a northeast Indiana newspaper.
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