I have been meeting with a lot of company leaders lately and there is a question that has been floating around in my head that I would love to discuss with the HCLDR community: Are we too hostile to outsiders in healthcare?
Jumping into Healthcare
The COVID pandemic exposed a lot of gaps in healthcare systems around the world. Entrepreneurs both inside and outside healthcare moved rapidly to fill those gaps with new products, services, and technologies. Given the magnitude of the challenge, many companies from outside of healthcare decided to jump in and many entrepreneurs with non-healthcare backgrounds did as well.
Micro-breweries were suddenly making hand sanitizer. Clothing manufacturers found a ready market for PPE. Banks suddenly got involved in revenue cycle management (okay that happened before the pandemic, but you get the idea).
Healthcare is Tough
The comment I hear most frequently from entrepreneurs who are entering the healthcare market for the first time is how tough it is to make any headway. They are constantly surprised at how difficult it is to get the attention of hospitals, clinics, government agencies, and payers. They knock on doors, send emails, attend conferences, and even take people out for coffee (lots and lots of coffee), yet they still have nothing to show for their effort.
“It feels like healthcare just doesn’t like outsiders trying to get in” one entrepreneur said to me.
This particular entrepreneur had given several demonstrations of his new patient engagement/coaching platform to a local hospital hoping they would adopt it for a segment of their patients. After 3 months, he felt like he was being given the run-around – constantly being asked to convince different members of the clinical and executive teams on the value of his product.
I tried to explain that this was normal in healthcare…that healthcare buys through committee and that it takes time to generate the internal support needed for a purchase decision. Unfortunately, this entrepreneur didn’t believe me and stuck with his belief that healthcare is hostile.
Maybe Healthcare is Hostile?
His words have stuck with me for a while now and lately I have tried to examine healthcare from the perspective of an outsider trying to get into this industry.
I have to admit we don’t really make it easy for anyone entering this market. We use a ton of acronyms in healthcare: HHS, CMS, ICD-10, COPD, RPM, etc. It can be very confusing without a glossary or someone to guide you. It is also unclear who makes the final purchasing decision. Is it the procurement department? The clinical team? The IT department? Or the CFO? This can vary by organization too.
But the biggest deterrent of all is the importance that healthcare buyers place on evidence that a particular solution works. Even if you are an established company in healthcare, healthcare buyers insist on getting references and speaking to peers about their experience with you. In fact it’s not uncommon for healthcare organizations to demand to see clinical trial or double-blind study that a solution can actually achieve the patient outcomes that the company claims to be possible.
In this light it’s understandable why some would think that healthcare is hostile to outsiders – making someone get a study done to prove the claims they make in a marketing/sale brochure isn’t common practice in too many other industries.
Personally, I don’t feel like healthcare is overtly hostile to outsiders – it’s just a tough market in general. Healthcare is complex. There are so many different players in the ecosystem and the complexity of reimbursements + government regulation makes it a very tricky quagmire to navigate. Plus, it takes forever to close a deal – easily 3x – 5x longer than what happens in banking, retail or other B2B markets (the exception being education and government where sales take even longer).
Healthcare Needs Innovation
On the flip side, healthcare is in desperate need of new thinking. We need brave, bold entrepreneurs and outside companies to disrupt the status quo. I won’t go as far as to say we’ve atrophied in healthcare, but there are certainly some very dusty corners of healthcare that could use a shakeup.
So what can we do to make ourselves a bit more welcoming to new thinking while simultaneously holding onto the norms (and regulations) that are there to protect patients and staff?
Join me on the next HCLDR tweetchat on Tuesday March 29th at 8:30pm ET (for your local time click here) when we will be discussing the following questions:
- T1 Do you feel that healthcare is hostile to newcomers? Does healthcare make it difficult for companies and/or individuals to enter?
- T2 Is there a company that you wish would come and disrupt healthcare or one that is already here that you hope will do it?
- T3 What can healthcare leaders do, or stop doing, to be more welcoming to innovative companies and individuals?
- T4 What message or advice would you give to an entrepreneur or individual that is looking to enter the healthcare market?
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