You have an amazing idea for an innovation that would completely revolutionise healthcare. You develop it, it works incredibly well, and yet no one wants it. It’s not sticking. Where did you go wrong?
Despite the abundance of healthtech companies, the reality is that the adoption of digital solutions is not as widespread as you’d think or hope. But why have only a handful of solutions been successfully implemented and scaled?
In an interview with Dorota Naumiuk and Dr. Michael Shenouda, Chief Operations Officer and Chief Commercial Officer at Open Medical, three important factors came to light. Drawing on their experience as clinicians and digital health specialists, they share their insights on how to succeed in this challenging industry.
First the what, then the how
“You need to learn how to walk before you can run," says Dorota. In the rush to modernise, there is often a tendency to build the most innovative system without considering if it actually solves a problem. There is also the tendency to complicate things unnecessarily, using automation and complexity to compensate for existing inefficiencies.
There is a right balance between embracing innovation and ensuring user readiness. Forcing complex solutions can lead to confusion and hinder progress.
If a platform fails to address the issue or complicates matters further, users will disengage. And without user-engagement, the solution becomes ineffective. As Dorota points out, “You can have the best and fanciest system, but it doesn't matter if no one uses it."
You need to understand the transformation the organisation wants to achieve and then use technology as a way to make it happen. Digital should always come second. And in order to do that, you need to work with them. Michael explains that a good strategy is through user champions, and that is especially true for clinical users. “You need to identify those who will see the value and champion it. They’ll become a positive voice, supporting what you’re doing and tailoring how they describe the benefits to their colleagues.”
Dorota reinforces this idea, saying, “If you don’t have the internal drive and someone taking responsibility, then as a supplier, you will struggle to make progress.” By adopting this approach, the tech supplier has a clear understanding of the benefits they can provide, and users immediately witness the impact, which naturally enhances user engagement and buy-in to what you are trying to deliver for the organisation.
Change the narrative
Unfortunately, it’s not always this straightforward. As Dorota explains, “very few people in healthcare don’t have a problem; some may just not have the time.”
As Michael explains, "You know you have a problem, but you just don’t have the time to deal with it.” More often than not, healthcare professionals are overworked, under-resourced, and struggling to keep up. They don’t have the headspace to think about implementing a digital solution that will take up time and resources they either don’t have or would rather utilise elsewhere.
In that case, you need to change your narrative. Help them understand the potential challenges they might face in the future. You need to help them see why it’s important and show why the initial struggles will ultimately lead to substantial gains. Dorota stresses this and says, “You need to show them that the short-term pain of implementing a solution will pay off, and you will create more capacity later.”
Sometimes, healthcare organisations are immediately cautious of a new digital solution coming into the picture because of a previously failed project that wreaked more havoc than anything else.
Michael explains that it’s not just about the initial implementation; it’s about what comes afterward that concerns them. They worry about investing resources in something that could become obsolete in a couple of years. Michael notes, “Some of the first questions we get asked are around how many hospitals, how many implementations, how many users, and how many contracts, because people want an idea of scale.” They want to ensure that their limited time and resources will not go to waste.
And this comes full circle to ensuring the solution solves a real problem and has the necessary user engagement. If it has been successfully procured and implemented in dozens of organisations, you can have confidence that this solution solves a real problem and can scale well.
Michael explains, “In the beginning, when you don’t have much scale, it’s about creating confidence for the user that the solution and service will be successful for them, really closely controlling the user experience and curating it for them, including the after-implementation service. Once you’ve been able to scale that while still maintaining the same level of care and service, you then have even more robust evidence of the suitability of your solution, and that is something you can leverage.”
A partnership, not a transaction
All of these points can be traced back to one pivotal element, and that is collaboration; both parties need to work together. Dorota emphasises that “you have to work collaboratively; we cannot do it without them and they cannot do it without us. We’ll have different opinions but you have to find common ground for all the challenges you come across.”
However, Dorota also acknowledges that sometimes users may not fully understand what they truly want or the implications of their requests. It becomes our responsibility to not simply follow these requests but to educate and advise them. This can present its own set of challenges, but it is a necessary part of the process to ensure effective collaboration and successful outcomes.
So, for those who are implementing digital solutions in healthcare, remember that, as Michael says, “the best projects are the ones where you’re working as a true partner.”