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Why healthcare entrepreneurs need multiple champions

Christina Hernandez Sherwood, eMed Editor, MedCity News

One of the toughest challenges for healthcare entrepreneurs can be the roadblocks they face from their potential customers: healthcare providers. Because of the highly regulated nature of healthcare institutions, changes from the status quo often encounter resistance. That's what Mert Iseri found when pitching the SwipeSense portable hand sanitizer dispenser that also collects data on hand hygiene. "You're proposing a change," said Iseri, the company's co-founder and CEO. "Invariably as a healthcare entrepreneur, you will encounter resistance."

The SwipeSense team learned to expedite the process by finding a number of champions within a healthcare institution, Iseri said. Instead of engaging just one department at a time, he said, the team reaches out broadly -- from the nursing staff to the respiratory department to the hospital administration. Eventually, Iseri said, stakeholders range from the staff members who will use the product to the administrator who will pay for it.

This technique can make the process slower and more difficult from the outset, Iseri said, as the company needs to wrangle schedules and plan multiple meetings. "But the reward is actually much faster at the tail end," he said. "Once everybody is on board, the idea moves faster."

Here are other entrepreneurial insights from Iseri:

Don't neglect the sales side -- As a technical founder, Iseri said, it can be easy to lose yourself in the void of engineering and ignore efforts like increasing your customer base. But sales should be at the forefront of the company, he said. "Sales is an incredibly important part, if not the most important part, of the health and growth of your business," Iseri said.

Be picky about press -- In the early days of SwipeSense, Iseri said, the team was open to just about any media interview. But later, he said, the team decided to limit press interviews and focus on growing the business. Healthcare startups grow not by publishing press articles, Iseri said, but by publishing scientific articles. "We started this company to save lives," he said, not to be popular.

Spend time with potential hires -- Vet potential team members on not just skills, Iseri said, but on attitudes for culture and company. "We like to spend a lot of time together before we make a hiring decision," he said. Consider whether you can see yourself working late with this person, Iseri said. "We're very selective in terms of whom we bring in on a full time basis," he said.

Photo by: Victor1558

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