With so many reports highlighting the increasing investment in Digital Health, it stands to reason to ask whether investors are making the right choices.
I am fortunate to have many interactions with investors within my network ranging, from angels to later-round focused venture capitalists. Here in Europe, investment in healthcare IT and digital health companies has started to become an area of interest because of the boom in the US.
My personal view has always been that increasing investment doesn't mean that a sector is doing great or will have a meaningful impact. In fact, many companies that I see receiving investment, I personally would not have validated. With that in mind there are many great startups out there that are missing out. Could a clinician's insight and knowledge redress these imbalances? I think so.
1. Doctors = Users
For many startups their end-users will be a broad mix of clinicians (doctors, nurses, allied professionals). It makes sense, therefore, to have the prospective end-user assessing a product's functionality for the clinical setting. Product development to reach a minimally viable product is essential to the success of any startup, and doing it with the right expertise on board makes a significant difference.
2. Doctors = Cynics
Doctors are often seen as tough critics that are often cynical about technology, and that can often be the case. However, that mentality is essential to support investors that are reviewing many propositions. There are many clinicians with the right mindset to look for a winner and having one on board can streamline the process of identifying worthwhile investment opportunities.
3. Clinical due diligence
Beyond screening prospects, a clinician's role can be far more significant when it comes to the due diligence process. Clinical due diligence goes beyond product viability and safety. Clinical workflow and process mapping are essential to identifying how a product will fit within the clinical environment, whilst identifying any challenges it might cause for stakeholders throughout a local health economy. No-one is better placed to judge this than a clinician through his interactions.
4. Doctors on the board
Following an investment, a clinician should be appointed to the board of any healthcare IT or digital health company whether—as a medical director or non-executive director. Doing so means that there is always a clinician on hand assessing the direction of the company and guiding the development of its key messages to the market, both for clinicians and patients. This is an increasingly important role at larger IT organisations that I am taking, and I think it should be replicated for startups and investor groups too.
5. Doctors create opportunities
One of the biggest challenges for startups, past the product development phase, is business case development in context. It can be tremendously difficult to identify clinical pilot sites that are willing to engage with new vendors. Without that, it can be impossible to develop a viable business case. Having a clinician on board will provide access to a clinical network that can streamline this process by creating appropriate engagement with healthcare providers.
Doctors aren't perfect and will not have all the answers that investors are looking for—and when I refer to doctors, it's important to note that I also include nurses and allied healthcare professionals whose insight is equally as important. Clinicians provide a level of technical and context-sensitive expertise that investors and technology experts simply will not have. Bring the two together, and you might just identify more lucrative opportunities.
The nuviun blog is intended to contribute to discussion and stimulate debate on important issues in global digital health. The views are solely those of the author