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Why healthcare entrepreneurs should embrace the iterative

Christina Hernandez Sherwood on June 10, 2014

As part of the Kauffman-sponsored Energizing Health Collaboration Series, we've turned over eMed to Guest Editor Matt Keener, the chief architect for the Pittsburgh leg of the collaboration conference. Through his work as a translational clinical neuroscientist and CEO of the healthcare startup emodt, Matt has collaborated with a number of healthcare entrepreneurs. Here are insights from one of them.


In the early days of the patient safety and healthcare improvement company Qualaris, the startup's team installed wireless tracking sensors in hospitals to help healthcare providers improve compliance with best practices. But Qualaris wasn't a hardware company for long, said co-founder and CIO Dan Bishop. "We realized that we weren't solving enough problems," he said, "and we weren't doing it efficiently enough."

The shift from hardware to software data analytics allowed Qualaris to offer more value to customers, Bishop said. Embracing the iterative nature of early-stage entrepreneurship and following through with the pivot, Bishop said, "was one thing that has been an interesting journey for us."

Here are other entrepreneurial insights from Bishop:

Let customers design solutions -- Qualaris lets customers design their own solutions on the company's platform, Bishop said. "We don't have the bandwidth to be the expert on everything," he said. For instance, most hospitals already have best practices for tasks like getting a bed from point A to point B. Instead of Qualaris reinventing the wheel, Bishop said, customers take those best practices and apply them to the platform. "By empowering end users to design their own solutions," he said, "we let our users be the experts."

Identify a challenge -- The Qualaris team started the company by identifying a large, unaddressed market challenge in healthcare, Bishop said. "We know patient safety is an issue," he said. "We know healthcare improvement is an challenge." Once a worthy challenge was identified, Bishop said, the team built ideas around solving it.

Find the right early customers -- When you're trying to do healthcare innovation on the enterprise side, Bishop said, access is everything. Early-stage companies need to find customers who will let startups understand their processes, he said, and are willing to be iterative. "That's really transformative for an enterprise company," Bishop said. The keys to finding the right early customers, he said, is to understand what's important to the customer's stakeholders and develop trust. "You just have to hustle really hard," Bishop said.

Image by LifePhotoStudio

Category:  Creation  Ideation  Tags:  Entrepreneur, Company Profiles, Qualaris

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