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Start-up: 3 Basic Rules for E-health Success

  1. There is rarely just one type of customer to woo

In order to get it right, entrepreneurs often focus first on a specific customer segment. This is supposed to allow them to gain ground: if you hit the nail on the head for one type of customer, this method will certainly always be useful for others. It is often said that start-ups are «more likely to die of indigestion than hunger», so it is better to resist the temptation to solve several problems at the same time. Even large platforms have generally started by meeting the concrete needs of a single defined group before attracting other targets.

In the health sector, this reasoning does not work, because the end user is most of the time not the one who pays. A patient may love physiotherapy, but it’s their insurance company that makes the decision whether or not to pay it cover the fees. A doctor may prefer an ultrasound device, but ultimately the decision is taken by the hospital. As you progress, keep in mind that customers are either looking to save time or money, or to make money.

  • In health, “fail fast” sounds like “kill fast”

An ancient and fundamental maxim in medicine is «primum non nocere» which means that it is sometimes better not to intervene so as not to risk creating more damage than good. In the health sector, we therefore accept a lethargic form of innovation as a price to pay in order to have a high level of safety for patients, for example :

  • During your first user search, you will need the support of a hospital’s management department or, in most cases, the approval of an ethics committee before you can interact with patients.
  • As soon as you start developing your software, you will probably need to adopt a quality management system in accordance with ISO 13485 and obtain CE certification before you can launch your solution on the market.
  • Before you enter the market, you may be required to support your proposition with rigorous scientific research that supports your value proposition. This can easily last for years and can be expensive.

There are no shortcuts here. Experienced investors and E-health innovators know that blitzscaling is not generally possible in digital therapies. Instead of focusing your ambition on the rapid economic growth of the company, you will need to place patient security at the heart of your strategy, following the principles of Modern Agile.

  • Health data is both a blessing and a curse

The health sector is full of opportunities for ambitious entrepreneurs. The market is huge and there seems to be mass data that can be used to improve the health of all categories of the population. However, be cautious as to not fall under the spell too quickly, difficulties await you. First of all, health data is kept in several silos: electronic health records (ideally), paper documents (more likely), applications, insurance records, patient memory, and other forms of storage.

As health data is particularly sensitive, it is difficult to provide access to diverse and heterogeneous data sources while ensuring transparency for the patient on how they are used for his or her benefit. Once you have successfully accessed this data, you will need to perform verification, clean-up, structuring, integration, merging and harmonization tasks. This process may prove to be frustrating and difficult to perform repeatedly.

Gleb Osipov

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