Entrepreneurs trying to fix problems in healthcare face daunting barriers. Massive incumbents, regulations, and perhaps most pervasively, resistance to change can leave healthcare start-ups fighting an uphill battle...
That said I believe there are tremendous opportunities for entrepreneurs in this space – even those new to healthcare like me – and hope sharing the lessons I learned the hard way with my company, Doctor On Demand, will guide other entrepreneurs to success in this area.
1. Find a problem
Healthcare consumers have come to expect inconvenience from the healthcare system. Long waits, extensive paperwork, and inflexible scheduling are par for the course. This inconvenience is a universal consumer pain point. Start-ups have a head-start when solving such widely felt problems, as incumbents rarely succeed in reworking complex systems. By listening to consumers and building a business that solves a real problem, entrepreneurs can take on huge companies.
There’s plenty of room for start-ups to make healthcare more convenient for consumers involved. The key is zeroing in on a specific problem - in our case the lack of easy access to primary care providers - and building your product around it.
2. Help all stakeholders
Bureaucracy in healthcare impacts other stakeholders, in addition to consumers. Providers are even more frustrated by paperwork, insurance rules, and inefficient processes than patients. Remember - they went to school to help people, not to fill out forms. Many companies provide services to help improve the experience for providers. Other companies have chosen to focus on the consumer. One key to our success has been adding value for both physicians and patients. A product that solves a consumer problem but works counter to physicians’ needs will never be adopted. In our case, if patients benefited from our service but doctors weren’t interest in participating, we wouldn’t have much of a network. Even if your company doesn’t directly service multiple stakeholders, it is critical to keep all of their interests in mind.
3. Reduce healthcare costs
Perhaps the biggest healthcare problem is out-of-control cost increases. Reducing costs may be the simplest but most powerful strategy a healthcare start-up can pursue and one Doctor On Demand has made a priority since day one. Many companies have paved the road for us to provide far less expensive access to physicians and psychologists than other alternatives. Castlight Health, for example, gives transparency to employers and their team members, letting them make cost-effective health-care choices. Healthcare costs are massive; there is a lot of room for start-ups to help reduce them.
Guess What? Healthcare can be fun
Launching Doctor On Demand has taught me an important lesson, and one that may come as a surprise to those with experience in the healthcare industry: health care can be fun! I admit this may not be the first thing that comes to mind when discussing our industry. But we get to come in everyday knowing we are making lives better for patients and physicians. For the Doctor On Demand team, nothing could be more rewarding.
Find a painful problem, make sure you’re adding value to all stakeholders in the ecosystem, and reduce costs while you’re at it - these have been three key elements of my strategy as a healthcare entrepreneur. Plus - if our experience is any indication - you might just have a lot of fun.