“You might design a product and all you seem to care about is if it is a cool product, and yet sometimes you don’t think about whether the customer can even use it,” says Dolin, chairman, president and CEO of Noteworthy Medical Systems Inc. “Is it going to make the customer successful?”
In 1997, Dolin founded Noteworthy Medical Systems, which, through its flagship product, NoteworthyEHR, provides health care professionals databases to manage and update patients’ electronic medical records. At the time, Dolin says, electronic medical records had only just begun to gain popularity, with less than 2 percent of the country’s 800,000 physicians utilizing EHR technology.
“For this product, analyzing the market size was easy because we knew doctors didn’t have the product,” Dolin says. “There was a huge, huge market.”
After assessing market size, Dolin says the next step in developing a product is examining the competition. By analyzing the downfalls of similar products, Dolin was able to avoid the same mistakes in developing NoteworthyEHR. In this case, other electronic medical records had failed because doctors had found them too complex. Although Dolin says it can be nearly impossible to predict how a market might embrace a new product, a company can be more in touch with the needs of its customers by soliciting feedback and input before a new product is introduced.
“The way we started with the product was to say, ‘How can we simplify this?’” Dolin says.
“We built a demo of it fairly rapidly and we started showing it to different people in health care — physicians, nurses, research people — just to make sure that it fit the needs of the organization.”
Dolin says perhaps the most significant difficulty in introducing a new product is that customers might simply not be ready for it.
“You have to understand your market, and the biggest challenge that we have faced over the years is that we’ve been too far ahead of the market,” Dolin says. “We know what should be the endpoint, but we try to get there too quickly with our customers.”
Seeing that doctors and other health care professionals had begun to use tools such as the Internet and e-mail, it seemed to Dolin that his market was becoming increasingly comfortable with technology and perhaps more likely to react positively to his product. In reality, in its beginning stages, Note-worthyEHR was still ahead of the market.
“A lot of small companies start out and don’t understand that while they think their product is great, they don’t understand there might be a lot of reasons that customers don’t want to buy it,” Dolin says. “We looked at our competition saying, ‘We know we’re better than the competition and we’re a better value because we priced our product lower than the competition.’ Yet in the first couple years, we didn’t lose prospects to the competition, we lost prospects to no decision. They just didn’t care about the product.”
As Dolin points out, in most cases, smaller, more entrepreneurial companies are generally ahead of the market, while larger, more established players opt to be behind the market, where they can use their bottomless pools of resources to develop better versions of products already recognized in the market.
As such, introducing a new product will always be a challenge for a young company.
“Until something becomes the standard in an industry, it’s hard to build your own demand for it,” Dolin says. “With breakthrough products, you have to generate the demand yourself, and that is very difficult for a new company to do.”
HOW TO REACH: Noteworthy Medical Systems Inc., (440) 684-6800 or www.noteworthyms.com