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7 steps to a healthy medical startup
By Jeanette Borzo, Business 2.0 Magazine

1. Diagnose the Challenge

If you don't already have a "real, visceral understanding" of the health-care market, partner with someone who does, advises Forrester Research executive Eric Brown. For his Revolution Health Group, AOL founder Steve Case recruited seasoned executives from big insurers like UnitedHealthcare.

Health 2.0

2. Avoid the Regulators

Stay clear of services that require you to spend a lot of quality time with the FDA. So consider dropping that plan for a high-tech hospital and think instead about a service that delivers hospital-quality health information to consumers, such as WebMD's.

3. Follow the Money

Anything that helps patients, employers, and insurance firms pare down the price of medical care should appeal. "Lowering health-care costs is the name of the game," says Ed Fotsch, CEO of Internet health-services company Medem. A company like Benefit-focus saves consumers money by providing information about plans and providers and helping them to pick the right coverage.

4. Target the Early Adopters

Focus on motivated consumers--say, people with heart disease or diabetes. That's the strategy of Patient Command, a McLean, Va., electronic medical-records startup. "We will start with that market," says co-founder Richard Marks. "Even a fraction of it will allow us to be profitable."

5. Be Specific

Create a focused solution for a specific market. Intuit's Quicken Medical Expense Manager, for example, concentrates on the management of medical bills and flexible spending accounts.

6. Use a Spoonful of Sugar

Many industries have found cash to be a key enticement for reluctant customers. So don't hesitate to aggressively coax consumers into using new health-care programs. Blue Shield has paid its customers as much as $200 to fill in a weekly online health assessment and record their healthy lifestyle activities.

7. Start Making Sense

Consumers need help with information overload. Technology that gives them a leg up on evaluating health-care options--from decisions about cancer therapies to health savings accounts--is in high demand. "We need quality ratings and price ratings," says Lewis Redd, head of Accenture's provider health and life sciences practice. Subimo, for instance, offers advice on everything from selecting a health savings account provider to choosing among hospitals for shoulder surgery.

To read more about the future of health care, click on the links below:

  • The Gene Screen Online genetic-testing services are springing up to take advantage of advances in genomics - and the growing willingness of consumers to conduct their most personal business over the Internet.
  • Retail Therapy More people are adding health care to their shopping lists as walk-in medical clinics are popping up in Wal-Marts, drugstores, and other retail outlets.
  • A Second Opinion for Medical Bills As the number of people paying for medical treatment through health savings accounts soars, software services that help them manage bills and spot errors are on the rise.
  • Home is Where the Health Care Is The market for home medical monitoring for chronic conditions is taking off thanks to new interactive devices that remotely track patients at home.
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