When The Customer Is The Patient: Lessons From Healthcare Startups


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From 3D printing of organs from a patient’s own cells to AI collection and analysis of huge amounts of data to new ways of communicating from patient to patient, the healthcare system has been experiencing huge disruption in recent years.

The American Health Care Act has been part of that disruption; by raising questions about how healthcare is delivered and received, health care has become part of the national conversation instead of a fringe discussion.

There are many lessons we can learn from healthcare startups that can be applied much more broadly than just organizations where customers are patients.

Trust Is Key

When we are discussing healthcare startups, we’re discussing businesses which have access to a huge amount of incredibly personal data. For a healthcare startup to do its work, customers have to be willing to entrust the startup with their data.

Sometimes, that trust needs to come from providers as well, as they share their aggregate information with companies to help build huge databases that can be mined by AI for helpful data on rare and serious diseases, likelihood of trial drug success, and more.

Confidence Is Necessary

At the same time that trust is necessary, confidence is key. This is true for many businesses, but in the healthcare space, there’s no room for hesitation or doubt. Business owners need to act quickly and decisively in order to make sure their companies do what needs to be done in terms of patient privacy, company success, and more.

That old saying, “fake it ‘til you make it” is important to all businesses. Of course you want to do your research, make sure you have the facts straight, and ensure that your decisions are well informed – but don’t let your hesitation keep you from moving forward as quickly as may be necessary.

Diversity Is Crucial

Obviously, the patients receiving healthcare are more than straight, white men. People of color, women, children, disabled people, LGBT+ people, all need to receive high quality healthcare. Studies have frequently shown that not all people get adequate healthcare, and that these divisions happen along gender and racial lines.

It is important that disruptive technologies also work to minimize these disparities and provide high quality health care to everyone.

One way to ensure that your startup has diversity built into its most basic levels is to have a diverse board from the beginning. This is to your business’s benefit as well; studies have regularly shown that companies which have diverse boards are more agile and adaptive in the busy marketplace.

Big Picture Matters

When looking at healthcare, disruption is often found in the small details. Considering, for example, the best way for a patient to communicate with their doctor so that their doctor can offer them the best possible treatment. These small details can dramatically change a patient’s life.

But when considering how to make small disruptions, looking at the bigger picture is crucial. How will this small change improve a patient’s care, really? How will this allow patients to receive better care? Will this be a time saver for doctors, or just make already present frustrations worse?

This is true for any business where you are asking time of someone. You need to be able to demonstrate that the extra effort now will pay off in the future. If you can’t sell them on that, you won’t be able to sell them on your product or service.

Value Proposition Requires Thought

Whenever you’re creating a new product or company, giving through consideration to your unique value proposition is crucial. After all, if you’re not sure what you can offer your customer, what interest will they have in investing in your product?

But this is especially true in healthcare products. Because so much trust is required in healthcare fields, both from patients and from providers, your UVP has to be incredible. Patients are trusting you with information and providers are trusting you with valuable time. Your UVP needs to make you stand out from the crowd.

In a busy marketplace, customers are looking at what you can offer them. Make sure you’re telling them not just how you’re different, but how you’re exciting.

Innovation and Disruption Are Rewarded

The biggest lesson we can learn from healthcare startups is that innovation and disruption are both rewarded. What patients expect from healthcare is rapidly changing, and the medical industry doesn’t know how to deliver what patients need based on its current business models. Startups are offering new and exciting options that can help them deliver the care patients need and deserve.

For startups outside of the healthcare industry, there’s much to learn about customers who aren’t patients. Remember that trust is crucial, that you need to offer something incredible and important, and that diverse companies vastly outperform those which have primarily straight white men on their boards. Bring diversity, trust, a great UVP, and innovation in on the ground level, and your company is likely to do extremely well.

Margarita Hakobyan
CEO and founder of MoversCorp.com, an online marketplace of local moving companies and storage facilities. Business women, wife and mother of two with bachelor's degree from the University of Utah with a concentration in International Studies and a Masters Degree also from the University of Utah with a degree in International business.


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