I’m sick. I have some nasty bronchitis thing and it sucks. There is nothing worse than a sick healthcare industry person. We are the worst patients ever because we know all the things that can go wrong and we know all the ways we can make ourselves worse. And that makes us even crankier than just being sick makes us anyway. If I were anyone I know, I’d maintain at least a 10 foot perimeter around me at all times.
When you’re sick and a healthcare person, it is even easier to see the absurdity of some of the new, new things in healthcare. As I sit here, surrounded by tissues and tea and my combination human/pet support group, I cannot imagine how so many of today’s hotter than hot technologies would make me feel better. If AI had predicted that I would get this crappy lung disaster from my vacation at the beach, I still would have gone. If blockchain could tell you the provenance of my DayQuil supplies, would I care? Nope, not today.
I recently got shown this ad for a medication compliance system. It is precisely what I’m talking about. Here we have AI, cryptocurrency and IOT all rolled into one to help people remember to take their medicines. View the VIDEO and tell me if this is how you see the healthcare system getting better – I’d love to hear your point of view.
I don’t know the Elysiot people and I don’t mean to pick on them more than anyone else, but seriously folks, if we are trying to “meet the patient where they are,” where in the heck do they think I am? NASA Mission Control? I am pretty sure that Mission Control does not feature a gargantuan pile of used Kleenex, two cats, a Chihuahua, and a mug of tea that looks like this. I know that my house doesn’t feature a silver metallic robot (at least yet).
I drugged myself up enough this morning to tape some new episodes of my and David Shaywitz’s Tech Tonics podcast (didn’t even need blockchain to do it!). One of the people we interviewed today was Owen Tripp, CEO of Grand Rounds (show will be released on July 23) and we talked about this whole area of technology and its place in healthcare. As someone who has been very thoughtful about how to combine technology and humanity, I appreciated hearing Owen say that while he fully expects AI and blockchain and all the other new whiz bang stuff to play a meaningful role in healthcare over time, we can’t get too enamored of this stuff too early.
Healthcare takes a long time to absorb new technologies. If you have heard of Moore’s Law, which essentially says that technology capacity will double every two years, you know that it doesn’t exactly apply as is in the healthcare context. Healthcare operates on a path closer to Morgue’s Law, which, according to me, says that companies that try to completely replace the human touch with technology are destined for the morgue and definitely not on the fast track for adoption. Or perhaps it’s Moor’s Law, where Moor is defined as a tract of open, peaty wasteland… where early attempts to over-technologize things go to die.
Both Owen and Brad Hirsch, CEO of SignalPath and another Tech Tonics interviewee today, talked about how there is virtue in being later to market as opposed to a first mover. Owen discussed this in the context of Reputation.com, a company he co-founded which he reported as being a bit ahead of its time. As a result, companies have to spend time evangelizing the concept rather than selling the value of the product itself. By the time the adopters are ready, lots of water, time and capital have gone under the bridge. On the other hand, if your company is more of a fast follower or even later, it’s possible to integrate the learnings of the pioneers with the arrows in their backs and bring something better to customers that is somewhat arrow-free.
This is an interesting point of view in great contrast to where the venture capital world generally likes to traffic. VCs tend to favor those first time, out-in-front wild and crazy ideas that could vastly change market dynamics. This seems to work really well in the consumer and tech worlds. But in the healthcare world, it is often the later entrants that win. We are watching this play out right now with the moves of Amazon and Apple, for instance, who are coming at the market with second or third generations of new things, not fundamental first time innovations. And they seem to be doing pretty well at it. I see the same thing with startups. It’s not unusual to see later versions of companies, who have “perfected” the first mover’s ideas and lain in wait until the healthcare temperature is right, to be the real winner.
Grand Rounds itself is such an example. It’s not the first company to tackle the second opinion concept, but it has certainly gotten farther faster than its predecessors. Similarly, SignalPath has done the same in creation of technology solutions for clinics to better perform clinical trials. They are not the first to think of this, but they have made it when many early companies did not because pharma just wasn’t ready when the first crop of these companies started hitting the market 15+ years ago (e.g., when health systems had yet to agree that it was safe to use cloud computing).
It’s a very interesting thing to think about – whether it’s best to be early or late – considering that it’s almost impossible to time entrepreneurship just right, Goldilocks style. Healthcare technology and technology-enabled services companies are raising gobs of money these days and much of it is being used to fund the losses of those early days of non-adoption/evangelization. About half of all venture funding into digital health is in the seed/Series A stage right now, so early on. Is it better to be funding those companies that are the second-coming of whatever almost worked or those that have entirely new technologies, ideas and business models? A tough question and great investors could confidently answer both ways. I’d welcome your input. I’ll try not to cough on you.
Note: if you are dying for an example of insane, buzzword-heavy, over-the-top marketing of tech products outside of healthcare, here’s a fun one.