4 ways hospital CEOs are like start-up entrepreneurs

  1. Passion.  When we’re so personally and professionally involved in something, we begin to fear our emotions will get in the way. For self-preservation reasons, we often start to pull away (or in the case of poor, struggling health start-ups, start applying for other jobs) because we’re SO involved that we fear our emotions might impede our judgment. But this passion for promoting health care, well care, health literacy, telemedicine, mHealth, etc. – this passion is what got us started in the first place.
  2. Empathy. Without concern for and understanding of the user (or patient) experience, we’ll fail to provide quality, life-changing care. We need to know what brought patients/users to us, why they keep coming back, what we can do to improve their experience, to help manage their expectations, etc.
  3. Problem solving. Physicians take on massive amounts of debt to go to medical school, and complete residencies and fellowships. They don’t expect to get rich. Physicians study medicine because they want to help people, to identify problems, and fix them. This should ring true with health start-ups as well. People who start health-tech companies aren’t looking to for wealth. They see pain-points in the delivery of health care and seek to solve problems from the outside in.
  4. Failure. We all fail. Physicians and entrepreneurs see failure as part of the iterative process of our business. If something doesn’t work, we find out why, and try it a different way the next time. Over and over and over again. The key to our success is listening to our failures.

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Transparency during the consumerization of healthcare

I’m at the Cleveland Clinic Patient Experience Summit, where, over the next few days, we’ll be considering the transformation of healthcare through empathy and innovation. We’re just a few hours in and have already heard from some great speakers, been brought to tears more than once by moving video storytelling, and discussed barriers to innovation from digital disparities, to cost of entry, to regulation and privacy issues, to patient expectations and clinical realities.

Dr. William Morris, Cleveland Clinic; Dr. Wayne Guerra, iTriage; Dr. Imad Najm, Cleveland Clinic; Adrei Pop, Human API

Dr. William Morris, Cleveland Clinic; Dr. Wayne Guerra, iTriage; Dr. Imad Najm, Cleveland Clinic; Adrei Pop, Human API

The overarching theme thus far – from Mobile App creators, to physicians, and a Google executive – is the need for transparency.

When mHealth is adopted in this country, it will be because consumers demand it. But, to get consumers engaged using telehealth and health-related apps, we (developers, communicators, physicians, etc.) have to set accurate expectations from the start. We have to educate users about what to expect from the app, and be completely transparent about its limitations, and – most importantly – be clear that technology should augment the consumer experience of healthcare, not replace physicians.

The onus is on mHealth brands – and their communication professionals – to help guide patient expectations. If mHealth is to be a consumer product, communicators need to help users to understand what apps can and can’t do to improve or facilitate health care and health information seeking. According to William Morris, the Associate Chief Medical Information Officer at Cleveland Clinic and award-winning innovator, customers need us to tell them that these “technologies aren’t meant to replace physicians, but to augment [medical care].”

Consumers will be disappointed unless they have realistic expectations. Simply adding a page on your website with consumer instructions will go a long way toward ensuring that your paying customers get the experience they think they’re paying for. More happy customers means more positive reviews, and ultimately, more amplification of your value proposition. That’s what we’re all after – right?

Where do you think the consumerization of health care will lead? Who do you want tomorrow’s patient to be and how can you help today’s patient to become that informed consumer?

Success Is 20% Technology and 80% Psychology

Lessons in Innovation and Entrepreneurism from Kent Dicks, CEO of Alere Connect

Kent Dicks headshotRecently, I had the opportunity to interview Kent Dicks, Chief Executive Officer of Alere Connect. Alere has just received FDA approval for its latest hub device, HomeLink. I’ve seen Alere at conferences and am excited by its potential to alter the quality of lives for many while reducing healthcare costs. What makes the Alere Connect platform so exciting is the behavioral psychology behind its development.

Where it all started

In 2006, before mHealth was a term on the tongue tips of venture capitalists, Kent Dicks was trying to find technology solutions for the defense industry. He was working with a company to develop devices to monitor troop location, hydration levels, and other stats remotely. It dawned on Kent that there was a tremendous need to manage a number of healthcare consumers in the United States in a similar fashion, but the health monitoring technology was fairly antiquated and expensive.

The consumers Kent was thinking about – the elderly – didn’t use computers. At the time (and, to a certain extent, this still rings true), this population didn’t use cell phones. Yet, this 15% of the U.S. population represents 80% of healthcare costs. From his previous experience, Kent knew the importance of aligning technology with users. Finding the right device that wouldn’t require extra steps or Internet use – even connectivity – would be challenging.

Formula for success

There’s a reason Alere Connect is successful. According to Mr. Dicks, successful development is 20% technology and 80% psychology. Developers and behavioral psychologists are busy trying to figure out just what it is that motivates people to change their habits, and just how to harness those behavior change theories to improve public health. The most successful technological advances are those that work seamlessly with little to no input from users. Say, for example, that you want to track a patient’s (we’ll call him Tom) weight following his hospital stay to treat his congestive heart disease. Taking daily weight measurements – and communicating those measurements in front of a medical professional – might not be a habit that Tom can sustain.

HomeLink in home settingWith Alere HomeLink, all that Tom has to do is step on the scale every day. HomeLink connects wirelessly to the scale, and automatically sends the data through the cloud via Bluetooth technology, where it can be reviewed and acted upon by Tom’s caregiving team. Tom is more likely to weigh himself daily if he knows someone else is on the other end, waiting for the data. At the start of treatment, Tom has selected his preferred method of communication with the Alere team from a list of possibilities, including text messages, phone calls from caregivers or family members. If Tom forgets to weigh in one morning, he’ll get a reminder message.

For congestive heart patients like Tom, Alere’s behind-the-scenes technology has reduced 30-day readmissions by up to 70%. Tom’s caregivers are able to detect fluctuations in his weight and adjust his medication regimen accordingly. Something as simple as stepping on a scale daily, and sharing that information (with no added steps for the patient) with health providers can improve Tom’s quality of life while reducing healthcare costs.

Advice for up-and-comers

I couldn’t spend 30 minutes with a successful, innovative entrepreneur like Kent Dicks without asking his advice for others interested in health technology start-ups. Mr. Dicks advises:

  • Leverage as many partnerships as you can.
  • Try to get to market quickly.
  • Bring solutions that fill a gap in marketplace that people just aren’t addressing well. Right now, investors are looking for quick hits and alignments.