How can you forge a path as a healthcare entrepreneur?

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When you think about major industries that have been reshaped in recent memory by disruptive innovations, healthcare might not be at the top of your list.

Although it is the largest sector of the U.S. economy — accounting for roughly one-sixth of national GDP — it has traditionally proven resistant to many of the same technologies and processes that have sparked profound changes elsewhere. Look no further than the ongoing reliance of doctor’s offices on the fax machine. It is involved in three-fourths of all medical communications, despite being virtually obsolete in most other environments.

A healthcare entrepreneur at work.

Moreover, U.S. healthcare has not seen the long-term decrease in price and increase in perceived value that characterizes everything from electronics to renewable energy. Whereas the costs of TVs and solar panels have declined with time, many pharmaceuticals and medical procedures have become more expensive. This context affords a unique opportunity to healthcare entrepreneurs. By earning an online healthcare MBA from an accredited institution such as the George Washington University, you can begin your journey to making a difference in countless lives.

Why today’s healthcare entrepreneurs have bright prospects

The healthcare industry’s history of resisting and slow-rolling various changes — often to the detriment of patients, providers and payers — creates an opening for entrepreneurs with innovative, agile products and services that can deliver more value than the status quo. Let’s look at a few key areas in which healthcare entrepreneurs are already charting a new course forward:

Ovarian cancer detection
Approximately 300,000 women in the U.S. have their ovaries removed every year due to malignancies or the presence of a particular gene associated with ovarian cancer. Detecting cancerous cells within the ovaries requires collecting samples from delicate tissue that can easily be damaged by conventional tools such as catheters. The medical device startup nVision Medical pioneered the idea of instead using a small balloon for the procedure. The company, which aims to gain Food and Drug Administration approval for this device, was acquired by Boston Scientific for $270 million.

Health insurance
Startup Oscar Health was founded in 2012 to be a different kind of health insurer, one focused on telemedicine, internet-enabled technology and a highly transparent claims process. The company attracted significant venture funding — $1.8 billion in total and $375 million from Google and YouTube parent company Alphabet in late 2018. Oscar estimated that its telemedicine usage rate was five times the industry average and that 82% of its members had set up a web profile, which provides around-the-clock access to telemedicine benefits and a team of nurses and other healthcare professionals.

Bedside monitoring
Continuously monitoring a patient’s vital signs — blood pressure, body temperature, respiratory rate, blood oxygen, three-lead ECG and heart rate — can be costly. Most solutions for this task feature a lot of custom hardware, which is expensive to manufacture, maintain and repair. Stasis Labs took a different approach with its continuous monitoring technology. Its platform harnesses the power of cloud computing by pairing off-the-shelf hardware with streamlined software and sends its updates from the cloud to nurses’ stations and tablets. Functions that once required the specialized machinery of a dedicated bedside monitor are now accessible through a variety of devices connected to the Stasis Labs cloud. According to Harvard Business Review, Stasis Labs’ services cost only 15% of the company’s competitors’ offerings.

Electronic health records (EHRs)
EHRs have become a fixture of modern healthcare practice, but they’re often as much of an inconvenience as they are an asset. Physicians and their teams waste a lot of time looking for the right information, often struggling to overcome “note bloat” that saddles them with tons of irrelevant and redundant data. A study in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that 49% of physician time was spent on EHR management and other desk work, compared to only 27% with patients. Startup Flatiron Health sought to change EHR usage for the better. Its analytics engine synthesizes insights from EHRs and unstructured data from sources such as labs and insurer networks to make recommendations about which cancer drugs are most effective. Pharmaceutical giant Roche purchased Flatiron Health for $1.9 billion.

Getting started with healthcare entrepreneurship

Becoming a successful entrepreneur is a different process for everyone. Some people succeed with their first project, while others take years and multiple tries before they break through. That said, there are some general guiding principles that can help:

Build connections
A program such as a rigorous, conveniently structured online healthcare MBA can help connect aspiring entrepreneurs with instructors, industry professionals, peers and alumni who can provide valuable insight and guidance. For more than 15 years, the GW HCMBA has ensured its students have these opportunities to develop specialized expertise at the intersection of business and healthcare. It is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business and has a flexible online format that is ideal for students with busy schedules and numerous commitments.

Have a clear plan
“Winging it” isn’t normally a sound strategy for starting a business, even a startup. Formulating a detailed business plan gives you a great starting point for conversations with potential investors, partners and employees. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but its very existence is often a powerful signal that you’ve done your homework and can be counted on.

Stay flexible
The flipside of planning well is to realize when it’s good to deviate from your plan. For example, maybe you initially planned on being the CEO of your company, but became overwhelmed by unforeseen challenges. That might be the right moment to bring in an industry veteran to help manage some of these issues while you take on a different role.

Two entrepreneurs collaborating.

The online healthcare MBA at GW can be your ticket to an entrepreneurial career. Learn more by visiting the main program page or taking a look at its curriculum.

Recommended Readings:
The Future of Entrepreneurship and Healthcare
Career spotlight: Medical Practice Entrepreneur

The Forbes 30 Under 30 Guide To Starting A Healthcare Company
3 entrepreneurs who made it their mission to lower healthcare costs
Opportunities for private-sector entrepreneurship in healthcare transformationOscar Health’s telemedicine use 5 times greater than health insurance averageThe Flatiron Health Acquisition Is A Shot In The Arm For Roche’s Oncology Real-World Evidence NeedsHalf of Physician Time Spent on EHRs and Paperwork