3 Health Tech Innovation Lessons from a Real-Life Founder

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mobile phone with telemedicine video and a virtual hologram overlay running the Bloodlight app

The path to success in healthcare technology innovation can be exciting. It can also be complex and challenging.  Rarely is it easy. However, whether you’re working internally on a specific project or you’re going all-in building a health tech company from the ground up, the guiding principles are the same. I want to share a little about my history in healthcare tech innovation and give you three important lessons I’ve learned along the way.  

My Background – Tissue Analytics

First, some quick background; after attending graduate school at Johns Hopkins University, I co-founded a company called Tissue Analytics. The company uses AI and computer vision to automatically measure wound size and dramatically improves documentation efficiency in electronic medical records like Epic, Cerner, and Allscripts. In 2020, the company was acquired by Net Health, an electronic medical record company on its own path to deepening and scaling analytics offerings.

Now on to the three things that may help in your journey through healthcare innovation.

Lesson #1 – Problem-First Approach

When we set out to create Tissue Analytics, the goal was not to build the flashiest piece of tech or something that would simply impress industry leaders. Tissue Analytics was born out of a need to solve a problem – inaccurate and inconsistent measurement of wounds. We identified an unmet need in outpatient clinics and hospitals centered around how outcomes are assessed and we set out to fill that need with a technology-oriented solution.

And while this may seem like a simple part of the story that’s easy to gloss over, it’s actually critical to the healthcare innovation process. Often, innovators start by trying to build a “solution” that leverages some sort of emerging technology without looking at how and where the tech will be used. While this may feel like a viable approach, we can’t begin to solve a problem until we truly understand all its dimensions. If we don’t, the result can be a flashy piece of tech that doesn’t serve any meaningful purpose at the expense of a lot of resources.

Here are the takeaways. Start by identifying the specific problem you want to solve before looking for a solution. Additionally, gain the most intimate understanding of that problem, beginning with the stakeholders at the grassroots level who would benefit the most from that solution.

Lesson #2 – Consider Integration Complexities

With Tissue Analytics, we wanted a solution that was easily adaptable and fit seamlessly into existing doctors’ and nurses’ workflows. Earning the buy-in of early adopters is critical to prove the viability of the product and to steer the companies’ growth. If your solution doesn’t work well with the existing tech stack or process ecosystem, that’s a problem.

The takeaway here is that it’s imperative for the success of the innovation that it nests neatly into the existing workflows and systems. Implement strategies to limit the need for things like double documentation or the need to sign into multiple platforms to accomplish the task. These small losses of time might seem unimportant to you, but to an end-user who might not share the same passion about your tech quite yet—it could be a deal breaker. Consider using interoperability marketplaces, like Epic’s AppOrchard or Cerner’s /code program, and definitely become familiar with modern integration frameworks like SMART on FHIR.   

Lesson #3 – Be a Master of Your Space

When you are creating a solution for a particular sector within the healthcare space, take the time to become a master of everything related to that space. With Tissue Analytics, we knew that integrating with the major EMR systems was going to be a critical component of our success. In light of this, we went as far as to open a new office in the same city as one of the major EMR providers so our teams could cross-pollinate and work closely.

While opening a new office might not be necessary for your situation (though it might be), there are a lot of things you can target. Make sure you know who all of the major players are in the space. Make sure you understand the boundaries and capabilities of the systems you plan to integrate with and certainly try to build a complementary offering. Understand things like the future direction of the players in the space, the types of deployment models they use, and the ins and outs of their data and how it flows.  

The Wrap Up

Healthcare innovation is an exciting and integral part of offering patients the highest level of care possible. By focusing on specific problems first, learning the intimate details of those problems, focusing on high-quality integrations, and being a master of your space, you can set yourself and your team up for success.

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