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How healthcare entrepreneurs can partner up for better access

Christina Hernandez Sherwood, eMed Editor, MedCity News

It's the classic catch-22 for a healthcare entrepreneur: Her company is small until she lands a big client, but she has trouble accessing a big client as a small company.  

That was the conundrum for Andriana Nikolova, co-founder and CEO of Yosko, a startup that creates mobile tools to make physicians' lives easier. Yosko's care coordination platform is meant to ease the burden of administrative tasks on clinicians, Nikolova said. "It minimizes the time they spend in front of the screen," she said, "and maximizes the time they spend with the patient."

But hospitals often view startups as risky partners, Nikolova said, so the challenge for the Yosko team was getting their solution in front of potential customers. "Hospitals are still having a little bit of a difficult time accessing entrepreneurs and being open to entrepreneurs," she said.

The solution: partner with an established electronic health record company. As part of the Open App Challenge, the Yosko team developed a tool that integrated with the electronic health record company's platform. It was risky to invest Yosko's limited resources to make this connection, Nikolova said, but the gamble paid off. "It was a very wise, strategic decision on our part," she said, "because by integrating once with [the electronic health record company] we can actually be used by any of their hospitals around the country."

Here are other entrepreneurial insights from Nikolova:

Consider a 9-to-5 job first -- In the startup world, entrepreneurs are their own bosses. "That means you need to work even harder," Nikolova said, "because the success of the company depends on you." Many healthcare entrepreneurs launch their companies right out of college, she said, without experiencing full-time jobs and the discipline that comes from working a fixed number of hours. "It's often a great thing to have held other jobs before you venture out on your own," Nikolova said.

Know how to work with someone close to you -- More than 10 percent of founding teams are made up of family members. In Nikolova's case, her co-founder is her husband. When working with someone close to you, she said, it's important to have a fundamental trust in your relationship. "Even if we have differences of opinion," Nikolova said, "I have the trust to say, ' know he's smart and he has the best interest of the company [at heart].'" That trust, she said, can come from spending time together -- but away from work. "Always have time to also relax and get away from being immersed completely in the company," said Nikolova, who enjoys salsa dancing and hiking with her husband. "You come back recharged and with better ideas."

Photo by thetaxhaven

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