If you want to ace the test, you have to do the homework and study the right material.
That’s a lesson not just for schoolchildren, but for digital health startups like one-year-old SelfSense Technology, whose leaders have learned early on the value of adequate preparation and focus.
SelfSense is developing a software suite comprising a mobile app and a Web companion to address high-risk patients with behavioral health conditions. With personalized active and passive monitoring tools, the startup hopes to enable patients to capture a better picture of their health so they can refine their methods for managing their conditions. For doctors, SelfSense wants to turn that information into predictive data that could enhance treatment and reduce frequent hospital visits. And for insurance providers, it hopes to give them new ways of assessing the quality of care that’s being delivered.
If that all sounds a little vague, it’s because the company’s founder and CEO Patrick O’Brien and chief technology officer Mike Martone have spent most of the last year focusing less on product development and more on refining a business strategy.
“For us, 90 percent of our time is going toward meeting with people,” O’Brien said. “Don’t worry as much in the beginning about development because a lot of that is going to be thrown out. We built an idea and got customer feedback first.”
As healthcare consumers, providers and payers are swarmed with new apps and programs that promise to streamline work flow, improve outcomes and reduce costs, the companies providing these tools must work harder to get the attention of their potential customers by pinpointing early on which ones are the best fit.
“You have your users and you know them pretty well, but you really have to think about who’s your customer,” O’Brien said. “You really have to figure out what drives these organizations — and it’s not just one thing. It’s going to be different for hospitals versus small practices versus Medicare organizations.”
That means researching organizations’ business models and tailoring a presentation so that it addresses how the product provides value in their particular settings. (And investors agree: See Gary Kurtzman’s post from earlier this week on why “build it and they will come” is no longer an effective business strategy.)
That’s how SelfSense got in the door with Massachusetts General Hospital, where it will be running an exploratory study of its software. Only now, one year into the life of the business, is O’Brien and Martone’s business-technology time ratio going to be flipped, they said, as they move into iterations and study preparations.
This type of beta study is going to pay off in more ways than one, they said. It’s also helping them address another big hurdle for digital health companies: demonstrating to customers that you have a good grasp on HIPAA compliance. The SelfSense team has done a lot of self-education and consulting with legal experts in this regard, but doing a scientific beta rather than a public beta puts the company’s technology in a more controlled environment, so it’s also protected by the hospital’s privacy and security measures in case something were to go wrong.
But the biggest word of advice they can share with other health IT startups just getting off the ground? “Stick to your mission but be flexible,” O’Brien said. “Your cool gadget might not be what you originally thought it was.”
[Photo from adamr]
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