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The Downfall of Polarisation in Healthtech (It's More Than Just Startups and Tech Giants)

Dr. Michael Shenouda, Chief Commercial Officer at Open Medical, delves into the polarisation within the healthtech industry and shares his insights and advice.


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The world is polarised.


It often feels like everything falls into an “either-or” framework. People either strongly agree or strongly disagree. Situations are simplified into being either A or B, good or bad. 


This polarisation has the effect of amplifying extreme opinions, leaving those in the middle largely unheard and overlooked. It gets to the point where, essentially, there is no middle ground.


This trend has seeped its way into industries like digital health.


Categorisation of digital health companies


During the pandemic, the digital health sector experienced a surge of startups riding high on investments and opportunities. 


As the investment landscape evolved, these startups began facing a new challenge: sustainability. The once-promising solutions that were hastily implemented to combat the crisis now struggle to find their place. This shift left clinicians with solutions that weren’t serviced or weren’t functioning anymore. 


And so, mirroring the broader polarised trends in the world, the digital health market became increasingly divided and categorisation began emerging between being either an early-stage startup or an established large corporation.


An incomplete picture


The numerous startup failures led healthcare organisations to favour the deep, stable pockets of large multinational corporations over smaller, innovative healthtech companies.


Choosing technology from such corporations, especially in healthcare, often delivers a significantly less cutting-edge and localised solution. This is because smaller companies tend to be more agile, whereas solution localisation, which is crucial in healthcare, is more difficult for larger companies to achieve. So bigger companies began to be perceived as stable and dependable safety nets, but not innovative.


Once again, we’re confronted with a choice between risky yet innovative solutions and safe yet rudimentary digital offerings. But is this actually the case?


Some large healthtech companies could be riskier than you think, while other startups could be the safer option with a proven track record of success and low risk. Perhaps the large company does have an innovative product that could deliver exactly what you need. Or maybe the startup you’ve labelled as such isn’t actually a startup; it’s just not as large as its corporate giant counterpart.


It’s not as simple as a binary choice.


From superficial to substantial 


We need to reintroduce nuance and delve into the details of our considerations.


Our habit of oversimplifying leads us to skim the surface and settle for a shallow understanding. Too often, we miss the subtleties that could change our perspectives and therefore overlook great opportunities.


In this information age, delving into nuance can sometimes feel like an endless and unproductive process. So you settle for a condensed summary of a company and fill the gaps with your own assumptions and biases, but this is rigid and devoid of any nuance. Alternatively, you can dive into every accessible piece of information about the company and the granular details of its solutions, but this is time-consuming and leads to minimal marginal gains.


Understanding the nuance does not necessarily require exhaustive research.


There’s a middle ground—a balanced approach to obtaining the necessary nuance without drowning in details. This approach requires strategic enquiry using well-placed questions to bridge the gap between a superficial idea and a deeper understanding.


Experienced doctors are skilled in this approach. Over time, they have mastered the art of obtaining pertinent medical information with just a few key questions. In contrast, more junior clinicians may initially feel the need to ask everything they can possibly think of to gather all the information to ensure they do not miss any information. But as they gain experience, they learn how to reach the necessary insights with only a few questions, perhaps even as few as 3 or 4 in some common clinical scenarios. 


Pursuing nuance does not mean exploring every conceivable detail; instead, it’s about understanding what you’re looking for and asking the right questions to get a more accurate picture.


Unlocking greater value


Polarisation will leave you short of knowledge. 


Very few things in life are either black or white. There are several shades, and indeed, millions of colours in between. 


Without digging into nuance, you may opt for the stable pockets of a giant to implement into your healthcare processes and dismiss more suitable solutions as too small or too risky. Likewise, you may opt for a less suitable, non-scalable, or riskier solution based solely on a lower cost. By failing to explore the nuance, you inadvertently ignore opportunities that could have delivered significantly greater value.


The devil lies in getting just the right amount of detail you require - the skill is in making sure you know how to best get that detail.

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