Marketing professionals have for some time relied heavily on demographic data and sophisticated analytics to segment markets and predict demand. These methods can indicate strong correlations between our demographic background and our propensity to buy something. However, there is nothing about our income, online browsing habits, height, gender, or racial profile that causes us to purchase a product. I can’t ever recall buying something because I’m a 5’10” male with a graduate education level.

Rather, people hire products to satisfy jobs that arise in their life at a given place and point in time.

Companies that evolve beyond demographic data mining to intimately understand the job their customers are trying to get done and configure their product or service to exquisitely address that job are invariably rewarded with enviable market share and profits.  For example, the home furnishings market is a very mature industry with a crowded, competitive field. Yet Swedish furniture retailer IKEA continues to grow despite fierce competition and a challenging macroeconomic environment. It does so because it has honed in on a clear job-to-be-done for people who need to quickly furnish an apartment or home with reasonably fashionable, cheap items. Every aspect of an IKEA store is configured around this job: from the babysitting service, to the cafeteria that keeps customers energized through a marathon shopping experience, to the enormous inventory that allows customers to take home their purchases the same day.

With respect to health care, given our common mortality, all of us have at least three fundamental jobs that arise in our lives:

1)      Tell me what’s wrong–  I think I might be sick, please diagnose me and figure out what’s wrong,

2)      Fix what’s wrong– I know I’m sick, please give me the treatment I need to get better, and

3)      Keep me well– I have a chronic condition to manage or just want to avoid getting sick again in the future, help me stay well.

Historically the way most people have satisfied all of these health care jobs is by going to the doctor or the hospital. These venues have tried to fulfill all health care jobs for all people for centuries. In most industries an attempt to satisfy all jobs for all people typically results in a ‘one-size-fits-none’ product or service failure. However, in health care the hospital-centric business model has defied this law to date due in large part to a lack of viable alternative ways to satisfy the jobs to be done.

With the advent of digital health technologies, however, we see an opportunity for new business models to rise up and nail individual patient jobs-to-be-done. The reason is because in the past the only way to make money in health care was by delivering therapies and procedures or by supplying the technologies that make therapies and procedures possible. This is what drove all three jobs to be satisfied in the doctor’s office / hospital centric business model.

In the future, digital health technologies will enable new caregivers and / or new care settings to make money on job 1 (diagnosis) and job 3 (wellness) without delivering therapies. For example, for job one patients and their families will be able to use smart phone-based diagnostics purchased in the app store to address their needs at home, perhaps with support from a flat-fee telehealth consult from a clinician.

Job three will likely become a team sport where patients, families, clinicians, and even technology providers may make money based on whether you stay well, rather than how many pills or procedures you consume.

There is certainly a long way to go to make the future a reality. However, I am optimistic that a focus on patient jobs-to-be-done will yield novel business models that will accelerate the journey to make health care more affordable and accessible.


  • Ben Wanamaker
    Ben Wanamaker