Healthcare · Growth hacking

How to growth-hack a health care tech startup?

Paul Cuciureanu Tech Lead at Ubisoft, Community Architect

February 7th, 2015

A little stumped on how to bring users to my site who aren't on social media, older demographic: 35 to 55 years old.

What has worked for you to target a specific group with a particular medical condition?

Some context:
- High Blood Pressure (the condition we target) is known as "the silent killer". Even though many people have it 30M+ Americans are effectively giving up 15 years of their life by not keeping their BP under control
- Few folks talk about it on social media 
- On-line patients support groups are not too active given the size of the problem, condition is mostly invisible
- Highest motivation to change their life when first time diagnosed by Dr. - however, we're not clinically proven yet, so Dr. can't recommend our approach. Working towards Canada Health approval.
- Pharmacies also need clinical proof to let us advertise to patients who take HBP meds
- Researcher/Clinicians who work with us to validate our digital program have only a few hundred patients reach, and building relationships with new ones is time-consuming
- Health care content doesn't seem to be "shareable" content
- Your health is more of a private thing; few people blast the internet with events about their condition, especially for Hypertension which doesn't have any short term symptoms.

The particulars in my case: I'm building a digital High Blood Pressure management curriculum targeted at recently diagnosed folks with Hypertension. Once people join they get into a team, and a health coach is available on the platform to support participants implement the Lifestyle Modifications suggested by their Dr., e.g.: eat less salt, do more exercise, measure blood pressure, etc. is the site.

I'm sure there are clever ways to reach the target audience on our own, without the need for the Dr./Pharmacy channel - but how?

- Sunday radio ad for when people come back from church?
- Public poster ad in the subway posted in older neighbourhoods?
- Target smaller employers with no health insurance and give them complementary health-coaching webinars for their employees?
- Create 20 fake accounts on our platform and impersonate real-looking conversations, seed the community?
- Hijack health-related MOOCs and post on their forums, as a "by-the-way, check out this site"?
- What's the equivalent of what AirBnB did with Craigslist but in the healthcare space? Well, maybe do stay in the legal realm, but can bend the rules slightly. :^)

Bhavin Parikh CEO and Co-founder at Magoosh

February 7th, 2015

I'm not in the health care space; I'm in the education/test-prep space. That said, I think there are some similarities. Most notably, most of our users don't like sharing content because they don't want anyone to know they are studying for a high-stakes test (especially if it means they are going to quit their current job.)

We've found that SEO/content marketing works really well. We write very high quality articles about how to study for a specific test (e.g. How to study for the GRE in 1 month). Students find our material via search, and the quality level builds trust, and ultimately, a percentage of those students purchase our online course. This channel took time to build, it took us 5 months to go from 1k visitors/mo to 20k visitors/mo and that was a few years ago, but it's scaled nicely and now we're many multiples of that.

I imagine you could have your experts write content about hypertension, etc. People will very likely be searching for that type of content even if they aren't sharing it.

Happy to share more if you shoot me a message.

Rafael Marcus

February 11th, 2015

Bhavin is right, actually. I took a quick look at the kind of google searches that are being done around "blood pressure" and found some big long tail keywords not being served well, which means there's a huge opportunity for a lot of steady, on-going consistent traffic month after month. 

For example, the keyword "what is normal blood pressure" alone gets 27K queries a month (not including bing or yahoo) and the results for the searcher are really poor (go ahead and see for yourself). If you created a blog post thoroughly answering that question ("what is normal blood pressure") and following a few guidelines for high rankings, google will reward you with ranking. You can/should go a step deeper to include in the article "normal blood pressure for men/women" and "normal blood pressure range" because you'd be looking at serving an additional 25K queries a month. A quick look at some other tools I use and I can see it's a clear chance to get to no 1 quickly. 

Lastly, I just wanted to address your point about health care content not being shareable. In the past year the two most shared articles about Blood Pressure specifically were shared 136K and 110K times, followed by a few articles shared in the 60's, 50's, and a bunch in the 20's (thousands). These articles are great ways to gain traffic, just write about similar topics and make the posts much, much better.

Let me know if you have any follow up questions. But to summarize, the answer is highly targeted content marketing...

Shingai Samudzi

February 7th, 2015

I'd forget about "growth hacking" given your subject matter.  Focus on two things:

1) Understanding how your target audience actually wants to interact with hypertension - this means some qualitative research

2) Incentivizing insurers, wellness companies, health providers and the like to do your distribution for you.

Vijay MD Founder Chefalytics, Co-owner Bite Catering Couture, Independent consultant (ex-McKinsey)

February 7th, 2015

Very few people want to interact with this type of material.  An untargeted audience will have very low conversion.

You need to figure out your channel.  The people that care are institutions, public health, and family members.  You either need to find a way to get paid by the first two or sell in to someone who cares that isn't going to want to deal with implications and emotional elements

Robert Woodburn Founder at Oncuray LLC

February 12th, 2015

Ran across this

Don't know if he can be of help to you.

Adrian Andrade Creative Director at emPower

February 7th, 2015

I fundamentally agree with Shingai's analysis of the need for qualitative research and identifying other distribution channels for user acquisition. If successful in this strategy, you're looking at exponential growth.

That being said, there are alternatives user acquisition methods to social media. As you pointed out, that age range may not be ideal for social media efforts, but you may utilize legacy media such as magazines. Magazines are great because they tend to attract specific groups/niches worth exploring. In this case, try to determine potential users based on readership data and content. I'm sure you can find magazines that target older groups which are already thinking about their overall health (health and nutrition magazines for instance).


Jessica Alter Entrepreneur & Advisor

February 7th, 2015

Honestly, you're not going to find your answers in FD:Discuss. Even if you get hundreds of responses, growth "hacking" isn't really "hacky" at all. It's very analytical, experiment driven. You should 100 ideas and method to test, tweak and repeat. You should probably be looking for a great advisor that gets growth and is interested in healthcare. This is a good place to start. This is a core core part to your business.

Josh Benjamin Founder of Lifechime | Authentic Human Being

February 12th, 2015

Rafael, what tool gave you the metrics of the sharing for those articles?

Rafael Marcus

February 12th, 2015

Hi Benjamin, you can simply go to and start searching around. Free version is limited, but still pretty valuable. It's an incredible tool.


February 13th, 2015

Hi Paul,
I work in the digital health space myself. Couple ideas came to mind that I hope will help:

  • "Go global" - AARP - partner with them to reach the baby boomers. They have strong offline channels reaching individuals in that age group that you could benefit from.
  •  "Go local"- Partner with a doctor or medical group serving your potential customers. Report your findings online and optimize the content for SEO rankings as mentioned in previous comments.
Good luck!