Through our Innovation Diffusion series, we have had the opportunity to speak with a number of healthcare industry leaders who are creatively disrupting traditional financing and care delivery models. Here we have gathered their advice for identifying opportunities in the market and launching a new healthcare company. Based on their experiences, think user experience, patient engagement, and consumer centricity:
Make sure you’re creating meaning and value. Too many leaders and companies are just there to make money. Making money should be the result of putting passion and love into something that has meaning and creates value. Set aside the MBA and accountant attitudes that focus on numbers, and instead focus on quality, passion, and crafting something great.
We encourage students interested in innovation to go get experience working in a startup environment. These organizations run looser and require self-starters with minimal direction. Can you operate in an environment of uncertainty where there is no right answer, no formula, and limited structure? There are more mentorship opportunities and workflow templates in place at larger organizations but being successful in any part of today’s healthcare industry requires critical thinking, flexibility, and creativity.
The user design and experience is really bad in healthcare, so focus on user experience. I see many health innovators that are hyper focused on the product, and they forget that there is a user on the other end. If users love your product, you will see viral growth. Second, start early on sales. Sales in hospitals and health plans are very difficult. There is a lot of noise in the market and lead times are long; it can take 14-18 months to close a contract.
Healthcare leaders should be looking at the use of technology to mitigate compliance risk and promote stronger physician alignment. Violations are expensive and undermine an organization’s credibility. Recently, these settlements include punitive damages to the physician and will likely soon be a mark against executives. This is an area that is simply not worth the risk!
Stick to your guns. Investors initially laughed at me when I talked about cross-border doctors. Believe enough in what you are doing. We created a market. You have to convince people that your idea makes sense. It’s important to think like an end user. We didn’t listen to the healthcare plan executive. We listened to the people who told us that they needed to speak to a real doctor who understood them. If you look at the product development from the point of view of the people you are trying to help, it will force you to come up with innovative ideas. Necessity is the mother of invention. Be willing to go where that path leads, even if it is to a new place. There are people out there who get it and will join and support you.
To make a difference in healthcare, you have to both think big while also being pragmatic about the industry’s limitations. The art of starting a company in digital health is walking that fine line.
The big changes we are going to see in healthcare are going from a reactive model to a proactive model and going from an episodic model to a continuous and collaborative model. All of that requires delivery systems and patients being on equal footing. Patients will need to be equal partners in that process, and it’s the tools and services that enable proactive, continuous, and collaborative healthcare that are going to be the biggest movers.
One thing is certain: she who owns the patient owns the market in digital health….Those companies who will end the game with the biggest bags of gold will be those that have embraced the idea of engaging with patients in product conceptualization, clinical trial design, and, especially, through creating a continuous feedback loop with consumers/patients through monitoring, personalization, and responsiveness to patient-reported outcomes. The ones sitting on piles of gold at the end of this race will be those who have risen to the leadership challenge of partnering with their customers in a deep and meaningful way.
When someone tells you it can’t be done, find out for yourself. We’ve had success because we've done the hardcore research to discover how information flows through the healthcare system.
There’s opportunity around the consumer and their needs. I see lip service around the concept of consumerism within the industry but the dial is not moving. Consumers are super frustrated. There is not enough focus on building around the consumer in healthcare, and the companies that understand and react to consumers will win.
Focus on a problem that needs to be solved and make sure your solution is accessible to most people. You can have a great solution that solves a tough problem, but if you can’t distribute it to your target user then it has little to no value. It’s not just about solving a problem. You must solve it in a way that can help a majority of people experiencing that problem. Creating a successful startup is hard work so make sure you love what you are doing. Otherwise, you’re not going to be able to push through the tough times and that’s the difference between success and failure.
There are pros and cons to being located outside Silicon Valley. We come from a deep understanding of our rural Kentucky population’s daily lives and routines. We are not a Silicon Valley consumer app which started and iterated with the needs of the affluent millennial or educated PhD researcher. Our intensive user facing design work that went into the development of the software started here. A 12-year-old from my practice said, “Make it work like Candy Crush, and I’ll use it.” So that’s how we started. However, we are at a clear disadvantage when it comes to raising capital. Hundreds of millions of dollars are being raised on the coasts, and we need investors who can bring both expertise and capital to the table.