The race for the first noninvasive glucose meter to hit the market is well underway and many more healthcare startups are entering the competitive diabetes treatment space. While trying to treat a large patient population, it’s still necessary to focus on the details and patient needs. It’s time to really drill down the market research and think about what kind of patients will use your medtech and how your company’s value to patients and providers might change over time. Neurometrix (NURO) founder and CEO Shai Gozani had these two key pieces of advice for diabetes treatment startups:
- Understand your market. “First of all diabetes is a broad space. Are you talking about younger type 1s or older type 2s?” For instance, a very cool, iPod-like glucose meter with lots options, wireless capability and so on, might work if your target demographic is a millenial or Gen-X-er. If your population is older, they might not be as tech savvy, they might already have vision loss or serious arthritis or mobility issues. Just because it’s the next big thing or it hits trends doesn’t mean it will hit your patient population.
- Be “a facilitator of quality of life, not a determiner of how people live.” Neurometrix focuses on diabetic peripheral neuropathy (DPN), which largely affects the older type 2s described above. They’re “not that technologically savvy, taking lots of medications, (and) have very complicated lives.” But most patient populations with chronic disease don’t want more complexity to enter their lives. What does that mean for startups? When you’re thinking about great medical technology, remember usability is right at the bottom line. “To fit into that, you really need to melt in to the background,” Gozani said.
- Be flexible to a rapidly changing landscape. While Gozani didn’t say this explicitly, in 2011 Neurometrix changed its focus from a broad diagnostics company to a narrow diagnostics company with a large patient population, DPN solutions. Rather than complain about the effects of healthcare reform on innovation or the market, the company saw the writing on the wall, leveraged its technologies to fit a new climate and stayed afloat. Sometimes business model innovation leads to new medical device ideas and design focus, such as making tech more wearable as with the Sensus.