In my nearly 20 years in healthcare venture capital, I have heard at least 37 million pitches for technology solutions to help patients be healthy, get healthy, stay healthy, One of the questions I most frequently ask entrepreneurs is this: What patient research have you done? How many potential consumers/customers have you interviewed to know there is a market for your wares? Guess what the most common answer to this question is? Wait for it…
None. That is often the answer. Seriously. Second place is “one,” as in “my grandma had congestive heart failure/fell and broke a hip/had a hangnail and so I built a whole company’s worth of product around her lone experience – behold my market of one!
It never ceases to amaze me. Do you think the folks in consumer products invent stuff that they don’t test with dozens and hundreds and sometimes thousands of consumers first? Answer: hell no. Even the drug companies have to do clinical trials and figure out what works. For goodness sake, health technology people, get in the game.
User-centered design is a pretty recent addition to the health care buzzword bingo board, but it’s a really important one. If you ascribe to the Field of Dreams strategy (if I build it, they will come), let me tell you how it ends: badly and surrounded by a bunch of very sad investors.
I finally snapped this week when I heard yet another of these stories; a young CEO was explaining their company’s new gizmo and telling me how it’s just what his grandma ordered. I was driving home from the meeting, one hand on the wheel, the other on my forehead, and one of my all time favorite songs, Bohemian Rhapsody, came on the radio. And suddenly I knew: it was the perfect song to tell my story of the importance of consumer input and user-centered design to the world of health tech entrepreneurs. So behold! and with due credit to Freddie Mercury and Queen (long may they reign), I give you: Health Tech Rhapsody (and if you want the tune in your head while you read, I’ve given you the song at the bottom to play along – you’re welcome).
Health Tech Rhapsody
Is this my real life?
Is this just fantasy?
Here on the inside,
I see ventures sans reality.
Open your eyes,
Look out at who’s sick and see,
Patients need service, not just technology,
Good health is easy come, easy go,
Pressure high, T cells low,
Getting sick really blows, experience really matters, you see
Grandma, just use this phone,
Sure you’re lying there in bed,
With that pounding in your head.
Grandma, don’t become undone,
Because you can’t read the screen anyway!
Hey Startup CEO -oo-oo,
Now you’ve made the patient cry,
Your product, no delight, just brings ‘em sorrow
Carry on, carry on as if users just don’t matter
Too late, your sales don’t come,
Ignore it and sales decline
Goodbye, revenue, nowhere to go,
Gotta realize you’re behind and face the truth.
Patients, ooh (getting sick really blows),
They heave a heavy sigh,
And sometimes throw your gadget against the wall.
(wicked guitar solo)
I got a fancy high tech sensor for my home
What the hell, what the hell, where does this little plug go?
Pushing, snapping, swiping
Very, very annoying me.
(Hell No) Hell no.
(Hell no) Hell no,
How do they expect me to know?
Where is the nurse -o-o-o-o.
If you’re in health tech, patient input is key,
Not just a time suck, essential actually,
Spare users the pain of a tech atrocity
Takes time, yes I know, but don’t let it go.
Consumer: This damn thing loads too slow. (Now you know)
Consumer: Don’t want my kids to know. (Now you know)
Consumer: Won’t wear it if it shows. (Now you know)
Wait, how much do I owe? (Now you know)
Never, never let it go
Never let it go, oh.
No, no, no, no, no, no, no.
Oh, you anxious health tech C.E.O (Trust me don’t let this step go.)
Consumer input matters, take this advice from me, from me, from me.
(wicked guitar solo 2)
So you think you can launch it and watch sales fly?
I’m telling you: heed my warning or they’ll never buy!
Oh, baby, can’t fight reality, baby,
Just gotta get out, just gotta go out and hear.
(Ooooh, ooh yeah, ooh yeah)
Patients really matter,
They can always see,
When you haven’t taken time,
To listen to what they really need