Startups: Success, Failure and Solving Health System’s Problems
Some of the biggest problems that investors, entrepreneurs and startup leaders need to solve was the point of a discussion during an opening session of an innovation summit hosted by DreamIt in Tampa in November. According to member of the panel — Daniel Vukmer, senior associate VP of network integration, USF Health; Todd Dunn, director of innovation, Intermountain Healthcare; and Ashley Simmons, director, design integration, Adventist Health System – some of the current top priorities for health systems continue to include patient access to care, better experiences when care is required and, of course, improving outcomes.
Those are the priorities that healthcare startups should be addressing.
For most health systems, the panelists said, moving healthcare to a much more consumer-centric business model is their most pressing issue – other than providing care itself. Because of this, the seemingly ever-allusive value-based outcomes will likely follow.
Simmons said Adventist Health System’s main priority is improving the consumer experience; the consumer is at the end of every decision point. “It’s consumers at the end of the day that we are engaging,” she said.
For startup leaders, they can look to Amazon for tips on how to create an overall experience, but they must truly understand the problems they solve or can solve as part of the charter, how they can help health systems solve these problems and who they need to align within the organization to bring about change between the health system and the startup.
Innovation is a collaborative effort, Dunn said. Health startup leaders must work with clinicians to understand the most pressing problem that needs solving or the one the health system is struggling with most. Also, instead of brain storming solutions that the startup may think exist, consider “pain storming,” Dunn added. When pains can be identified, solutions can be offered.
For Vulkmer, innovation requires a problem to solve, as well as must include a quality value proposition. How will a startup help a system address cost, quality and service – the triple aim? Startups also must align with the needs of health systems to help them make a move and change, Simmons added.
“There’s not an area in healthcare that’s not going to need to be served in the next five to 10 years,” said Dunn, meaning there are plenty of opportunities for innovators who wish to take on the challenges.
What works, what fails
When young, lean and new IT organizations want to succeed, perhaps the best approach – as it is in any business – is knowing the landscape being served, understanding the marketplace and being well aware of competitors. Some startups fail simply because they don’t understand the marketplace they are trying to serve, as well as the most pressing problems they need to solve.
Some startups are overly confident, too, said Simmons. “A few startups we’ve worked with that have failed because they don’t understand their marketplace and competitors, and have made claims that were untrue,” she said. “Nine times out of 10 you’re probably not the only one doing something and you’re probably not the best one doing it.”
Finally, failure for startups can come because they think they can change healthcare at a macro level when their solution is granular at best.
Another setback for entrepreneurs and innovators is being verbally critical of a provider or even saying that “healthcare is broken” during an initial engagement, Dunn said. “It’s deeply personal to us and we’re trying to fix it. This is not a system, it’s people making up a system.”
Getting beyond the pilot
To ensure success, startup leaders might consider some best practices. These include engaging someone inside the health system who is championing the effort. Additionally, these leaders may want to time-bind a return time for the system. Also, consider putting a project manager on the plan to keep the project or relationship moving.