Tuesday was a day spent with numerous companies outside of health care who want in. I was struck by a number of consistent themes. Most companies treat health care like any other vertical. This is a mistake for several reasons.
Conventional wisdom frequently holds that the health care market doesn't justify the creation of a product that specifically meets the needs of the market. Point of care computing device vendors are a good example - but far from the only one. (Computers on wheels - COW - vendors are an exception; I'm thinking Symbol, Hand Held Products, Panasonic and similar vendors.) I mention this category because Motion just released the C5 tablet for health care. Sure their product is not perfect, and all their ROI stories I've seen hold true for any point of care computing device, but it appears they are on their way to selling hundreds of thousands of units to health care. Holy smokes, who'd of thought? ...perhaps more than a few health care providers. What other untapped opportunities out there are discounted by conventional wisdom?
Non-health care vendors don't really understand the health care market. Even - or maybe especially - vendors who've been selling horizontal market products into health care for years. Health care is like your slightly insane but lovable great aunt who befuddles and frustrates strangers but fits right in to your family, providing a unique perspective and surprising way of doing things; you either love her or hate her. Those of us who are health care "lifers" love our quirky great aunt - but either way, you have to spend years getting to know her to really understand her.
One of the best tools that I've come across for understanding health care is Regina Herzlinger's Six Forces that describes things that can derail innovations in health care. But it still takes someone with real experience to be able to suss out how to effectively deal with our batty auntie. Another challenge is that health care is big and complex and there are many different folks in different roles who know certain aspects of the market. You have to tap the right people in the proper roles to make the right decisions. There are many points of view in and about health care, and perspective is everything. You can rent these people or you can hire them. Either way, you need to follow their recommendations, which leads me to my next observation.
Many outsider companies get good advice then chose to ignore it. Of course companies in all markets do this, but it's especially damaging to outsider companies. Not following advice is frequently based on a disbelief that the recommendation is correct or necessary. There are many counter intuitive things about health care, and you don't know what you don't know. This denial falls into two broad categories, either the company refuses to make internal changes to better address the problem at hand, or they chose to ignore market requirements they can't be bothered with (or don't believe are really, you know, requirements).
Pictured right is Motion's C5. This one was in the Welch Allyn booth running their nurse-carried primary alarm notification product, pending 510(k) approval.