You have a healthcare product idea? Avoid these 5 dead-on-arrival mistakes
The healthcare industry is different. Full of dichotomies.
The industry is incentivized to adopt technology to reduce costs. But technology rollouts run into hundreds of millions of dollars.
We make laws to fix problems. But healthcare laws are problematic themselves and hugely increase administrative burden.
These challenges present great opportunity for innovation. But making products happen is anything but easy.
Being mindful of these 5 mistakes will help your product see light of day.
Mistake 1: Assuming that customers don't know what they want
Yes, Steve Jobs famously said that customers don't know what they want. However, this assumes a deep, intuitive grasp of customers that most don't have.
At the heart of all startup failures is this assumption that the world will pay for what you create. Build and they will come. But why don't they?
Instead, reverse your lens.
Build something basic. Get someone to use it in real-life. Then go back to the drawing board, develop the product more fully for that user. Find more users.
Mistake 2: Going after all the fish in the pond
In a vast ocean like healthcare, you can easily get lost in trying to go after everybody.
Seth Godin, on the contrary, says small is the new big. Find the smallest footprint you can make a big difference for. Then scale out.
In my company, when we are overwhelmed with unfinished projects, we go back to the drawing board and ask:
Which of these projects will make a big difference to our clients?
In fact, we use simple 2x2 matrix to map and evaluate all our projects: Difficulty vs Value to Clients.
Mistake 3: Underestimating regulatory requirements
It's tempting to underestimate compliance. Healthcare is a highly regulated industry. Certifications matter.
Regulators make rules to cover all bases. So that the law doesn't break. In doing so, we end up with huge, complex laws.
Think how can you make life easier for everybody.
For example, in our new product, we used algorithms to help doctors meet quality mandates even while they go about their work. In a sense, we automated compliance.
Mistake 4: Putting off interoperability for later
Big boys in healthcare aren't used to talking to each other. Older business models are based on hoarding data, not sharing it. Interoperability is a huge problem.
All industry trends point to shared platforms. You can no longer be an isolated player.
Think how your product can be interoperable from Day 1 using standards such as HL7 or FHIR. Friendly. Flexible. Willing to plug into other systems - old or new.
Mistake 5: Thinking short-term in a slow industry
In healthcare, old and new co-exist all the time. A doctor might use IBM Watson (2010) and a stethoscope (1816) during the same consultation. Timing the market is difficult.
For all its advances, healthcare is a slow beast. Things don't change easily or quickly. Often, one product serves only as a starting point for the next.
You need a plan to stay for the long haul. Make sure you have fun.
Where does it all begin?
It begins by deeply listening to your customers. Observing them at work. Even working with them.
Respecting their views, however counterintuitive they might be to you.
Building products - without burning other people's money - is not for the faint-hearted. It consumes you. It can even drown you.
We didn't go about imagining a portfolio of goodies. We started really small. Converting an XL spreadsheet into an analytics dashboard. It gave us confidence to do more.
We built a cloud/mobile EHR (called enki) that took 2x the amount of time than we estimated. Certifications were arduous. We extended enki to Google Glass (remember those?) but the market had no real need of it.
Those early steps changed our company forever.
The experience taught us to extend enki to patients, surgery centers, telemedicine, endoscopy machines. The story goes on.
Plugging a medical cable, seeing a patient's gut appear on the cloud, and then seeing the doctor's how-did-that-happen reaction. Makes the journey worth it.
Actually, it seems like magic.