5 Ailments Affecting Digital Health Startups & Their Remedies

Digital health entrepreneurs like you are already celebrating the arrival of the digital revolution in health care! Mobile health, telemedicine and electronic medical records are now beginning to transform global health care. The digital health industry has seen unprecedented growth recently, with startups raising $4.3 and $4.5 billion as venture funding in 2014 and 2015 respectively.

However, digital health startups still have a long road ahead. According to Accenture, 50% of digital health startups are unlikely to last two years. Here are a few lessons your venture can learn from the mistakes of other digital health startups and avoid a premature death:

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1. Lack of credibility

Diagnosis:
Failure to prove the credibility of their products and applications can leave digital health startups in a comatose state. In fact, health care professionals are getting increasingly frustrated with the poor usability of digital health tools.

Recently, a blood-testing startup and brain-training app came under the scanner for being unable to prove the accuracy and effectiveness of their products. Surely, your startup doesn’t want to be in the news for similar reasons!

Prescription:

Moreover, fulfilling regulatory requirements is a prerequisite for digital health startups who want to partner with pharmaceutical companies and health practitioners.

Make it a priority to obtain all the required FDA approvals and product certifications. Remember, FDA approval usually takes between 9-12 months in the US and 6-8 months in the EU.

2. Poor functionality and user experience

Diagnosis:
The lack of intuitive products, failure to provide a smooth user experience and bad design are major hurdles that digital health startups need to overcome. Electronic Health Records (EHR), for example, continue to frustrate and baffle health care providers. Meanwhile, patients continue to be put off by digital health tools that are cumbersome or difficult to navigate.

Prescription:
There is an increasing need for digital health startups to create products that are intuitive and better aligned to the needs of both providers and payers. Digital health innovations should not hinder the workflow of physicians, but rather make it easier.

Do remember that users have high expectations from digital health technology today. Online shopping, entertainment and banking has never been simpler, and users expect similar standards from digital health care too. Startups in the digital health space should constantly strive to improve the user experience of their innovations.

3. Skewed ratio of businessmen to engineers

Diagnosis:
According to John Sun Kim, one of the biggest roadblocks that digital health startups face is the difficulty to integrate with legacy systems. This lack of “data interoperability” and APIs is actually killing digital health startups.

Most clients in B2B health care require additional features, integrations into legacy systems and other complex changes and development. This needs able database engineers, system administrators and user interface designers. However, most digital health startups tend to have more businessmen and fewer engineers.

Prescription:
John Kim suggests a 3:1 ratio of engineers to business people if the startup has 4 or less employees, a 2:1 ratio if they have 5 to 12 employees and a 1:1 ratio for 13 to 25 employees.

Does your digital health startup have such a healthy ratio?

4. Not being patient-centric

Diagnosis:
Many digital health startups are not able to persuade patients to embrace their innovative digital health solutions. Vendors who offer products without empathizing with patients, often fail to win their trust. This inability to connect with users can leave a digital health startup bedridden.

Prescription:

It is essential for digital health startups to consult patients before building a product or service. Don’t just assume patients have a need! Engage with them to test your hypothesis.

Does your digital health venture pass the patient-centric test?

5. Misplaced focus when developing a product

Diagnosis:
A large number of digital health startups build a product or service based on what they think needs to be fixed in the health care space. Remember that the usefulness of a product does not warrant buyers.

Dr. Kimberley Newell Green, Chief Innovation Officer at the Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Medical Center, feels that digital health startups often approach and involve health care practitioners too late in the development process.

Prescription:
Try and identify what the industry is willing to purchase. Do your homework with providers, patients and payers. Dr. Green stresses the need for digital health ventures to engage earlier and deeper with health professionals. This could actually help yield practical solutions for improving patient outcomes and decrease health care costs.

Is your digital health startup making any of these mistakes? If it is, hopefully you can remedy them at the earliest. What are some other major mistakes that you think digital health ventures and entrepreneurs are making today?

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