Healthcare is an increasingly important area for innovation. New technological advancements, deeper understanding of major diseases and breakthroughs in cutting-edge research, as well as more investment for entrepreneurial endeavours in this space, has meant that it has never been easier to start a health or medical-related business to improve people’s lives and wellbeing.
But, as many entrepreneurs who work in this space know, healthcare is one of the toughest sectors to break into especially as an early-stage startup business.
There are a number of barriers and obstacles to understand. Ultimately, healthcare is about improving the lives of people, of patients, which means that systems have been put in place to protect their interests. Innovating and therefore changing how things are done, how care is delivered, how treatments are done, can be difficult, but highly rewarding if done right.
We had the pleasure of bringing together diverse viewpoints from digital healthcare business Babylon Health, the NHS‘s Imperial College Health Partners, and a medical technology startup Affect AI to discuss how to innovate in healthcare.
Tim Allan — Senior Design Director, Babylon Health
Shakti Dookeran — Innovation Delivery Lead, Imperial College Health Partners
Woochan Hwang — CEO & Founder, Affect AI, using voice-based bio-markers to better objectively monitor depression. Affect.AI has been part of MedTech Super Connector, a MedTech accelerator we have been honoured to design and run (read case study here).
It was a lively discussion with lots of real examples and below are the top five things we learned.
1. Understand that changing ways of working will take time
Healthcare organisations and professionals have worried less about technology and more about patients, which means they often still work manually with processes that were put in place many years ago.
Changing what people are used to is tough. As Woochan of Affect AI put it, some doctors have said to him “That’s great, but how long will it take for me to learn how to use it?” when he showed them his technology. There are well-established ways of doing things, and procedures, in place.
For any innovator, it’s important to fully understand why they are done like this, how healthcare professionals behave and think and what is the ultimate goal they are trying to achieve in order to be able to design a product that they will use and keep using.
2. Think creatively about how to meet clinicians and healthcare professionals
Many entrepreneurs and startups in the healthcare space say that one of the hardest things is being able to speak to enough clinicians, doctors, patients and other healthcare professionals, in order to validate their thinking and test their ideas. This is part of an extremely important part of our venture building process, known as Customer Discovery interviews.
So how do the successful ones overcome this challenge? A very useful piece of advice from Tim Allan, Senior Design Director of Babylon Health, is to speak with the staff running Quality Improvement programmes at hospitals and clinics who are often clinicians themselves. These Quality Improvement programmes are designed to engage patients and the public in a dialogue about what can be done better for patients and care experiences, which is a great point of entry for any startup or entrepreneur looking to find the right stakeholders to engage with.