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5 Must Knows for a Health Tech Startup


Tech start-ups have been a buzzword for a long time and the newest trend coming out of the Indian Silicon Valley is no doubt, a ‘Health Tech’ start-up. With the coming of Obamacare in the US in 2009, there mushroomed approximately a 100 Health Tech start-up companies in USA alone and an inflow of up to $10 billion of funding.

Generally, India takes one to one-and-a-half decades to catch up with technology trends emanating out of the US! Does that mean the next decade would be the beginning of the ‘Health Tech’ start-up revolution in India? Maybe; and it doesn’t look far from reality, either. The recent initiative of the Government of India, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare to start the National E-health Authority (NeHA) and to also set up a separate program called the National Health Systems (NHS) under their National Institute of Health & Family Welfare (NIHFW), is seen as a concrete step towards ‘Universal Health Data Digitisation’ across the country. This opens up a big opportunity for mushrooming of innovative Health Tech start-ups that offer unique solutions to fill in the gaps in this whole process of ‘Healthcare Data Digitisation’. Clearly, this is bound to happen now as it is the need of the hour.

But, this should also be seen with some amount of caution. And hence, I recommend 5 Must Things that Health Start-Up Founders should keep in mind, if they want to achieve success.

1. This is mostly for Founders with pure technology background and no healthcare domain expertise. Please be aware that Technology-play in healthcare, other than innovation, also requires to be combined with a lot of sensitivities when it comes to dealing with patients. For instance, it’s not advisable to call patients as customers (though there’s a thin line), the same philosophy applies while developing interactive tools for patients.

I was recently reviewing a Health Tech start-up company from the side of the Investors. And sad to say, what I saw was nothing short of appalling. The Investors were showing no caution while talking about their business module as they showed no restraint in taking care of various ‘sensitivities’ involved while dealing with their so-called customers — ‘Patients’ in this case.

One should be aware of the challenges and the mindset of the Patients who are the Customers in this case. They are mostly going through a state of pain or inconvenience/ discomfort due to being diseased, and therefore, need delicate handling than being treated as ‘Customers’ who, say, are at a mall looking to buy clothes.

2. It is useful to involve a person with expertise of the Healthcare domain. For instance, if possible, a Medical Doctor should be made part of the technology development process. This strategy would definitely help.

3. The core of any business is profit. Yet, the business module of a Healthcare Start-Up should not have profit as the sole objective and it should not be seen as compromising on the ‘ethics’ related to Patients and Doctors. The market is very sensitive to the subject of ‘medical ethics’ and hence, it should be handled with utmost caution. Else, it would become a big hindrance at both the Fund Raising as well as the Customer Acquisition fronts.

4. Complimenting the above point, the revenue module for a Health Tech Start-Up should be made more reasonable, meaning, it should have a longer gestation period in comparison to an E-Commerce type Start-Up module. Since the Health Tech Start-Up ecosystem in India is still evolving, a lot of effort and time will go into establishing the new technology concept. More so, there’s an established practice in the healthcare sector at all fronts, be it Doctors, or other stake-holders like Chemists, Hospitals, or Diagnostics, among others, as well as Patients and their Families. Hence, a longer gestation period is needed to change their current habits and replace existing Practices, as a result of which, the time taken for revenue generation would be longer.

5. Most importantly, one should also keep in mind the complex structure of the healthcare practice and that in our country, it is still Doctor-dependent and the role of ‘human touch’ cannot be totally written off. So, two aspects become very important and should be kept in perspective — one, that Technology-play should be mostly B2B, keeping the Doctors and Influencers in the loop, and two, the fact that Tech cannot completely replace the ‘human factor’ and this aspect should be dealt with caution while developing and executing a Business Plan for a Health Tech Start-Up Co.

A few points of consideration will change if a start-up falls in the pure categories of Wellness, Fitness, Preventive Health or Nutrition, as there the end-Customers are healthy individuals and not necessarily ‘patients’. But still, the rules of the game would remain the same.

Read more: bwdisrupt.businessworld.in