5 Reasons Why Digital Health Needs More Doctors as Investors
I am fortunate to have many interactions with investors within my network ranging from angels to later round focused venture capitalists. Here in Europe, investment in healthcare IT and digital health companies has started to become an area of interest because of the boom in the United States.
My personal view has always been that increasing investment doesn’t mean that a sector is doing great or will have a meaningful impact. In fact, many companies that I see receiving investment I personally would not have validated. With that in mind there are many great startups out there that are missing out. Could a clinician’s insight and knowledge address these imbalances? I think so and here are five reasons why:
1. Doctors = Users
For many startups their end-users will be a broad mix of clinicians (doctors, nurses, allied professionals). It makes sense therefore to have the prospective end-user assessing a product’s functionality for the clinical setting. Product development to reach a minimum viable product (MVP) is essential to the success of any health tech startup and doing it with the right expertise on board makes a significant difference.
2. Doctors = Cynics
Doctors are often seen as tough critics and most likely cynical about technology. However, that mentality is essential to support investors that are reviewing many pitches. There are many clinicians with the right mindset to look for a winner and having one on board can streamline the process of identifying potential investment opportunities.
3. Clinical due diligence
Beyond screening prospects, a clinician’s role can be far more significant when it comes to the due diligence process. Clinical due diligence goes beyond product viability and safety. Clinical workflow and process mapping are essential to identify how a product will fit within the clinical environment while identifying any challenges it might cause for stakeholders throughout a local health economy. No one is better placed to judge this than a clinician and their interactions.
4. Doctors on the board
Following an investment, a clinician should be appointed to the board of any healthcare IT or digital health company whether as a medical director or non-executive director. Doing so means that there is always a clinician on hand assessing the direction of the company and guiding the development of its key messages to the market both for clinicians and patients. This is an increasingly important role at larger IT organizations that I am taking and I think it should be replicated for startups and investor groups too.
5. Doctors create opportunities
One of the biggest challenges for digital health startups after the product development phase is business case development. It can be tremendously difficult to identify potential clinical pilot sites willing to engage with new vendors. Without it, it can be impossible to develop a viable business case. Having a clinician on board will provide access to a clinical network that can streamline this process by creating appropriate engagement with healthcare providers.
Doctors aren’t perfect and will not have all the answers that investors are looking for and when I refer to doctors it’s important to note that I also include nurses and allied healthcare professionals whose insight is equally as important. However, clinicians provide a level of technical and clinical expertise that investors and technology experts simply will not have. Bring the two together and you might just identify more lucrative digital health opportunities.
Dr. Saif Abed is the Founding Partner of Abed Graham Healthcare Strategies, a provider of clinical analysis and intelligence to support UK (NHS) market research, strategy development and sales acceleration.
5 Steps to Building Successful Digital Health Solutions
Dr. Saif Abed describes five key steps to building digital health solutions.
At times it might seem like the relationship between healthcare and technology is so broad that it’s beyond definition. Certainly, that’s a challenge for many of the different supporters of IT in healthcare as they have to contend with all the different tags and titles whether it’s digital health,mHealth or the more traditional health IT.
The thing is it doesn’t really matter. Whatever your flavor of technology in healthcare there are certain rules, laws even, that you need to follow if your brand of technology is going to succeed. In my line of work I mostly deal with healthcare IT of the infrastructure variety and here are the rules I follow which I think translate well whether you’re into apps, remote diagnostics, EHR or any other subgenre of healthcare technology.
Understanding the context of a piece of technology is essential for it to have any positive impact whether that’s operationally or clinically. Workflows, whether in the hospital or in the patient’s home can be tremendously complex. You need to understand the challenges your end-users face so that you can give them the best possible user experience and ultimately impact their care positively.
Healthcare is notoriously siloed and we’re not breaking out of those silos fast enough. Your software or hardware is likely going to store data and it’s simply not good enough to create another silo. To have a demonstrable impact you need to be able to ‘talk’ to other systems. Whether it’s data sharing or data access, the complexity of healthcare systems more than ever relies on the accurate and timely management of information between multiple clinicians and their patients.
3. Physician Engagement
We’re working hard to get patients to engage when it comes to technology and so we should. However, we don’t seem to engage doctors and nurses enough. In fact doctors seem to get a hard time and are seen as barriers. In reality it’s a bell curve and it takes time to speak to doctors in their language. It comes back to context. Understand their challenges and get them on board because they’re key to the adoption of IT solutions and are often the end users.
Build your evidence base. Whether you’re into remote diagnostics or EHR systems, healthcare is still a bureaucratic space to be in and more than any other sector you need to demonstrate an ROI. Clinically, operationally and financially there needs to be a return for health systems, clinicians and patients alike. Otherwise, why take the risk? Why keep going?
Think big. Sure, a software solution might be able to handle a few workflows but what happens when you’re dealing with multiple workflows, across multiple health systems with increasing numbers of stakeholders and volumes of data? You need to have the excess capacity to deal with all these variables whilst still demonstrating consistent, high quality, safe ROIs.
Add these ingredients to the mix and you won’t go far off the mark.