The Graveyard of Digital Health, and How To Stay Out of It
By Anish Sebastian, CEO and co-founder, Babyscripts.
Collaboration is at the heart of successes over history — in Darwin’s words, “those who learn to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.”
Yet the healthcare space has been slow to learn that lesson. Far from functioning as a team focused on a single goal, healthcare stakeholders operate on a fractured playing field, each one trying to get to the goal on their own. From that perspective, everyone becomes a competitor — and the ability to reach the goal line becomes nearly impossible.
Nowhere is the tension more obvious than in the struggle to integrate technology and healthcare.
On the surface, they are unlikely partners. Healthcare isn’t exactly a profession for risk-taking, and rightfully so — in every decision, the safety of a patient is at stake. A new drug or tool has to run the gamut of regulatory burdens and clinical validation before it gets anywhere close to adoption. Adoption and implementation is arguably even more challenging, including everything from integrating new solutions into legacy systems, convincing practices to abandon the sunk cost of preexisting solutions, or overcoming the lack of financial incentives — without practice reimbursement, the challenge of adoption becomes that much more daunting.
Technology, on the other hand, is a high-risk, high-reward market (there’s a reason that billion dollar-valuation startups are called “unicorns”). Many tech startups achieve their success by delivering direct-to-consumer solutions, cutting out the middleman and individualizing experiences for the user. It’s a formula that doesn’t map well onto the healthcare field where the success of patient care and outcomes relies on a web of relationships.
And tech companies that have tried to take these formulas from Silicon Valley and apply them to healthcare learn that really quickly. The graveyard of digital health tools is littered with companies trying to sidestep the problems of the healthcare system by dealing with the patient directly, and removing the care provider from the equation.
The crash and burn rate of tech entrepreneurs trying to break into healthcare is so notorious that GV, Google’s venture capital arm, set up a program to teach the ins and outs of the healthcare industry to aspiring crossovers from Silicon Valley.