Lessons Learned from Lyft’s Entrance to Healthcare

We have a few mantras around AngelMD. One of those is “invest in what you know.” But recently we’ve also been focusing on the idea of “innovate where you are.” The theory is the same — you know more about the area in which you’re already working, so it makes sense to put your money or your work there.

Over the years, we’ve seen many instances where non-healthcare companies have used this same idea to break into the market. The latest of these comes from Lyft, an on-demand transportation company. Lyft is working toward building out a healthcare business unit that helps patients travel to non-emergency medical appointments. They company is focusing on its own wheelhouse, and then making key hires to help it transition into a new vertical.

Windpact is a great example of this idea. The company’s CEO is a former professional football player. He knew about the dangers of the sport, and he hired the right people to help build the solutions. Today Windpact is finding success outside of football, while still staying true to its roots, and even being recognized by the NFL.

The idea isn’t new, but it seems to come up more often these days. A few months ago, while we were at the Health:Further conference in Nashville, we heard these same suggestions. Dr. Suzanne Manzi, the Lead Investor for the AngelMD Syndicate for Neumentum, echoed the sentiment.

“I’ve seen promising companies, but sometimes they’re run by people who don’t have experience in the market that they’re trying to enter. They can have a great product, but the odds are stacked against them if they lack the background.”

That said, branching outside of your area of expertise isn’t forbidden territory. It’s a move that you have to handle in the right way. As Dr. Jack Lewin shared with us, it’s important to follow your passion, but it’s critical that what you’re following aligns with your experience. If that passion is too far removed, then find someone who can bridge the gap for your company. Otherwise you’ll be chasing problems that don’t exist.

Dr. Lewin’s example is HealthPals. Dr. Rajesh Dash started the company as little more than a lab with a single purpose. However, the market dictated that HealthPals could have a much larger impact than a single lab could provide. By partnering with the American College of Cardiology, HealthPals has been able to transform its business, while still holding true to its roots.

As the AngelMD network continues to grow, we see new companies join every day. There is nothing more motivating than watching a cardiologist, radiologist, or internist build a company that changes their field. Innovate in what you know, or connect with an expert in the AngelMD network. Are you next?

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Introducing AngelMD’s Strategic Alliance with the Rapacke Law Group

AngelMD is proud to announce its strategic alliance with The Rapacke Law Group. This alliance will help AngelMD members navigate the legal side of healthcare startups without the expense required to keep a lawyer on retainer. The Rapacke Law Group offers award-winning, price predictable legal counsel to AngelMD startups, physicians, and investors.

At AngelMD, we’re always excited when we find companies that can help to remove some of the heavy lifting required by startups, physicians, and investors on the network. The Rapacke Law Firm is offering a special set of benefits specifically to AngelMD members that will not only help them handle legal issues, but will also save them money in doing so.

  • Free one-hour strategy session with an experienced attorney
  • 20% off all legal services
  • Free provisional patent application
  • Up to $15k line of credit for one-year toward legal services

Patent, trademark, IP protection, business formation and M&A are areas of focus that every company and investor will encounter at some point on their journey. However, neither startups nor investors have the legal expertise to make sure that their interests are well protected. This strategic alliance with the Rapacke Law Group can help to cover these needs, while also offering legal counsel in many other areas.

For more information, or to get started, visit the AngelMD Service Partners page, and click on the Rapacke Law Group link.

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Navigating the Waters as a Physician Entrepreneur

In one of our recent articles, we focused on the problem of “I have an idea…so now what?” For the physician entrepreneur, navigating the waters building a business while practicing medicine can be a challenge. You’re being pulled from all sides — your family, your patients, your company or idea — which leaves very little time for yourself. With all that said, the appeal of entrepreneurship is something that can’t be ignored. So let’s talk about what it takes to make it happen.

Set Your Schedule

The pundits will tell you that you have to do whatever it takes to succeed, even if that means neglecting yourself. Any physician will tell you, however, that proper rest is critical to health. So instead of starting this talk by focusing on the idea and the execution, let’s instead begin with setting a schedule.

In his 2016 book The 10% Entrepreneur, Patrick J. McGinnis posits that there are several types of entrepreneurship, and you can be successful at any of them by dedicating as little as ten percent of your spare time. To put these numbers into perspective, if you dedicate from 8 until 10 pm daily to “recreation”, that’s a mere twelve minutes each day that you’d need to put toward building your idea.

Plausible? McGinnis has studies in the book that argue his case. That said, the specific amount of time isn’t as important as the practice of setting a schedule and sticking to it. This practice makes sure that not only are your responsibilities getting the time that they should, but you’re taking care of yourself as well.

Get Educated

Medical school is designed to teach you how to become a physician, not an entrepreneur. That education is better left up to a combination of those who have come before you, and your own experiences. Part of that experience comes from being a practicing physician. This is where you will find the problems that you want to solve.

The next step of education comes in learning how to run a business. After all, that’s what you’re creating. This education can come in many forms, but one of the most widely-recognized is the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs. SoPE offers opportunities for collaboration, education, and help at every stage of the commercialization process.

Events like The Physician Entrepreneur Summit are also prime opportunities for education. They can help both the newcomer and the veteran understand the fine points of business and entrepreneurship while highlighting upcoming areas in medicine that offer strong opportunities for innovation.

Whether it’s a society, an event, or a discussion over coffee, never pass up the opportunity to learn. There may not be a degree involved, but the payoff is greater than any college program could provide.

Embrace Opportunity

Opportunity as an entrepreneur takes on many forms. For some, it will be serving as an advisor. For others it will be as an investor. Look for open doors that will allow you to get involved with companies in your area of expertise, and then walk through them.

But opportunity in entrepreneurship has a less-familiar face as well — one that looks a lot like failure.

As a physician, failure is has the potential to be devastating. As an entrepreneur, failure is part of what makes you great. As Thomas Edison famously said, ” I have not failed. I’ve found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Every failure as an entrepreneur is an opportunity for you to learn. These lessons can be about your product, about your market, or about yourself. Your ability to judge in a clinical setting comes from experience. The same is true for your ability to judge opportunities and challenges in the business world.

Navigating the waters as a physician entrepreneur can be daunting. But if you know what you’re looking for, then finding it becomes a lot easier. By setting a schedule for yourself, seeking out help, and dedicating yourself to learning at every step, you will be better situated for success.

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I Have an Idea…So Now What?

One could argue that every physician is an entrepreneur at heart. They’re not afraid of risk, and they’re well aware of the potential rewards. It’s no surprise then to see so many physicians making the transition into the role of startup CEO. But the path to a successful company is not without its share of challenges. All too often, this leads to a physician saying “I have an idea…so now what?”

While every company’s journey is going to be different, there are some constants between them. We will cover these commonalities and discuss how to overcome those challenges. Along the way, Dr. Rajesh Dash will talk about his journey with HealthPals. HealthPals is a company that Dr. Dash founded in 2015. After shifting its market focus, HealthPals found success as a data and business partner with the American College of Cardiology.

Examine the Market

The first step in any successful company is to build something that somebody wants. While this definitely sounds simple, and even trite, it’s a challenge that often leads to failure. In the world of healthcare, the best advice is often to focus on innovating within your present field. You already know the challenges that you face, and the problems that you wish someone would solve. Staying inside of your own field gives you a competitive advantage over working elsewhere.

Dr. Dash had been working as a preventive cardiologist. He was on the staff at Stanford University, focusing on predictive imaging. The genesis of HealthPals came from a clinic that he started to identify and treat risk factors in young South Asians. His own work had showed him that many patients were not undertreated for their own risk factors, and he believed that a digital service could help give them more effective treatment.

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Once you know the problem that you want to solve, you need to determine the potential market size for your product. Is your solution’s target so precise that it ignores a larger potential? What competitive advantages can you bring that over the status quo or your competitors? What price is someone willing to pay for what you’re offering? Until you have a good idea about the answers to these questions, it’s not worth moving forward to the next step. So do your research, and tap into your personal network to help clear away confusion.

HealthPals found that there was a broader need for their idea than what a single clinic could provide. As Dr. Dash and the team continued their research, they found that many patients met all the clinical criteria for medications, but few had started them.

Further, the team found a gap in the use of evidence-based guidelines versus the current treatment plans. This gap showed the need for a solution that could reach a wider audience than what the team had been focusing on before.

Write the Plan

Now armed with the information from your market research, your next step is to put it into a business plan. Your plan should make it clear what your business does, how you intend to attract customers, and how you will structure the company.

In the startup world it’s also important to distil this business plan into a slide deck that you can use to tell your story. Investors, early employees, and even advisors will want to have this explanation available to them.

Build the MVP

The MVP, or minimum viable product, is the first iteration that shows what a company is able to do. For many entrepreneurs, the MVP or prototype becomes a stumbling block. Showing this incomplete work to anyone is embarrassing. But as LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman says, “if you’re not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.”

Though the focus of the article is on technology, Free Code Camp has a great explanation of an MVP process:

1 – Start with a single, simple product solving a tiny subset of a Grand Problem

2 – Keep iterating, while constantly solving bigger, related problems en route to solving the Grand Problem

3 – Constantly communicate the vision of the Grand Problem that you are solving.

Sometimes the MVP isn’t designed as an MVP at all. In Dr. Dash’s case, the clinic was the MVP when it was first built as the end goal. It wasn’t until he started working in the clinic, focusing on one population group, that the grand problem came into the picture. By looking at the data that the clinic was using, Dr. Dash was able to see that there was a broader problem that he wanted to address.

Cardiologist Dr. Billy Cohn has developed numerous prototypes over the years, and now holds over 90 patents either granted or pending. In Dr. Cohn’s case, he built many of his prototypes from scrap materials, pieces that he acquired from home improvement stores, or even parts from a dollar store. His work is a perfect example of not overthinking an MVP. They only need enough function and refinement to get the job done. There is plenty of time to come back later and improve on the original idea.

Let the Data Decide

One of the toughest challenges that any entrepreneur can face is finding out that their original idea needs to change. Sometimes it’s a lack of customers, other times it’s a matter of finding new information once the MVP is out in the world. Regardless of the reasoning, it’s important to keep an open mind and not get overly-attached to the first idea.

HealthPals Screenshot

Dr. Dash’s experiences with data caused him to make a significant pivot. “We set out to build something quite different than what we are now,” he said. “The first iteration was a point-of-care solution. We showed automated, personalized, evidence-based lists of guideline-driven treatments. Physicians really liked the idea, but nobody was willing to pay for it.”

The concept of product-market fit is an area that often trips up entrepreneurs. The pitfall to avoid is that of being so in love with your original idea that you’re prevented from seeing a broader need or a bigger picture. For HealthPals, the shift was to move toward health systems rather than solo or other small practices.

Never Stop Exploring

We spoke earlier about looking for ways to innovate within your current field. The next step after finding the right idea is to explore ways that it can serve more people. Dr. Dash started by focusing on a specific problem that was part of a larger issue. His work took him from a single clinic, to a point-of-care startup, and eventually to health systems. As it stands today, HealthPals has developed a clinical intelligence system (CLINT, for short) that allows patient data to be mapped to the evidence-based criteria of the customer’s choosing.

CLINT has opened the door for HealthPals to become a data and business partner with the American College of Cardiology. Now, instead of a single clinic or a handful of offices, HealthPals can run virtual clinical trials against 200 million patient life-years of de-identified data. These trials can test whether recommended treatment actually works, or if it’s an ineffective status quo. Beyond these tests, HealthPals can now provide analytics back to the various health systems and companies that work with them. As Dr. Dash tells us, “the ACC is a tremendous channel partner, and working with them has been a huge turn of events for us.”

Read, Research, Repeat

No one article can ever encompass every step required to go from an idea to a successful product or company. So let this serve as a primer for you. As you’re dealing with the frustrations in your daily work, and thinking of ways that you could solve them, you now have a starting point for making a difference.

Along the way you might need technical help, investment dollars, or other assistance. While the grand problem may seem daunting, remember the MVP method of finding a solution. Start by fixing a small problem, look at the market to see if there are bigger opportunities, and don’t hesitate to find a partner to help you grow. You’re already an entrepreneur at heart; put that drive to use and change the future of healthcare.

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The New Rules of Healthcare Innovation

I started this week at home in Nashville, attending the Health:Further conference. This year, it seemed to me, that there was an overarching theme that I will call “the rules of healthcare innovation.” AngelMD President Dan Parsley and SVP Mark Mescher were both speaking, so it gave me a good opportunity to attend some talks, panels, and one-on-one meetings. These are the topics that I heard, time and time again.

Innovate Where You Are

While talking to investors, one thing almost all of them said was that they wanted to see innovation led by founders within their own areas of expertise. It’s a sentiment that was echoed by AngelMD Lead Investor Dr. Suzanne Manzi in her interview last month.

“I’ve seen promising companies, but sometimes they’re run by people who don’t have experience in the market that they’re trying to enter. They can have a great product, but the odds are stacked against them if they lack the background.”

It’s easy to look around and see frustrations within the healthcare world. For the entrepreneur, these frustrations look like targets for innovation. But the sad fact is that, often times, the innovation target is far removed from the entrepreneur’s area of expertise. This leads to inexperienced, poor decisions, and oftentimes to unnecessary failure.

The Wisdom of the Crowd

With the first point in mind, clinician-entrepreneurs must also be careful to not be overly sure of their own expertise. There will be times when something bothers you personally, and you think that there’s a better way of doing things. But that doesn’t mean that anyone else is having the same problem.

The quick way around this pitfall is to survey the wisdom of the crowd. Talk to other providers in your specialty. See if they’re having the same frustrations that you are. Ask them what they’ve tried in order to get around those frustrations.

At AngelMD, part of our secret is in the power of the network. We make it easy to connect to other healthcare providers in your field, so take advantage of that opportunity. This is especially important for those who work in smaller geographic areas, or less-populated specialties. Use your AngelMD profile to connect to others, ask them for their feedback, and put the crowd to work for you.

Organizational Opportunities

I shouldn’t have been surprised to hear Marcus Osborne from Walmart talking about wellness innovation, but I was. My jaw shouldn’t have dropped when I heard HCA’s stats surrounding innovation, but it did. Over and over again, I heard stories about large organizations placing bets on innovation. Companies are putting big money into innovation — especially the kind that solves their own problems.

We often hear stories about the person who slogs through their 9 to 5 job, then heads home to pursue a passion. These days, those stories are changing. Companies that you might not expect (look back at the first paragraph, and notice that I said Walmart) are tapping current employees and hiring new ones, in order to drive innovative solutions within healthcare.

This shift in culture is opening new doors. In some cases, it’s placing doors where they never existed before. Instead of looking to outside vendors, many companies are willing to put down table stakes in order to be a player. So before you go looking around, or spending late nights on your own, investigate the opportunities that already exist inside your organization.

There Are No Rules

It might seem strange to end a post about rules by saying that there are no rules, but hear me out for a final point. The fact of the matter is that the world of healthcare has changed. Innovation is coming from every direction, and the only thing set in stone are the regulations that govern all of us.

Innovators have spent years being constrained by what others have told them they can’t (or shouldn’t) do. But today’s landscape is much different. Age matters less than it ever has, experience is less difficult to gather than ever before, and the connected world that we live in means that global collaboration is a simple reality.

If Health:Further taught me any one thing, it’s that there is not only a need, but also the means, to bring about the future of health. So stop waiting for someone to give you permission. Build something, advise someone who is, or invest in those who have. The world of innovation is ours.

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