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Medicine is moving closer to the consumer

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From Forbes Magazine

Medicine is moving closer to the consumer, to a surprising degree,via explosive growth in retail medicine. By retail medicine I mean providers in retail locations (e.g., MinuteClinic) and tele-access to providers in the cloud (MDLive, HealthTap). Venture money is flooding in. It’s a good thing to give people more access to basic care at better prices: this can stop acute problems earlier and cut down multi-thousand-dollar ER visits. Many doubt, however, that retail medicine can addresses the hard problems that drive 70%+ of healthcare cost: chronic diseases and the life-long behaviors that drive them.

What does this mean for entrepreneurs?

  • Don’t hold back to see what happens with the ACA.
  • New businesses that help take cost out of the system are safer bets, as the cost problem is not going away, and the establishment is not enthusiastic about taking out cost. Those that depend on increased spending are riskier; Congress can pull back funding even if it does not repeal the ACA.
  • Helping connect the providers and their islands of information is an opportunity for entrepreneurs but risky: running with the bulls. There is high ground to be staked out in the new connected healthcare system, but there will be lots of artillery aimed at it, so agility in setting strategy and making deals is a must for success.
  • Personalized medicine offers interesting opportunities for entrepreneurs, but they are tricky: reimbursement for personalized therapies is uncertain, regulation rears its unloved head here (e.g., 23andMe), and gaining traction in the field seems to depend heavily on the academic standing of company founders, which adds an unusual dimension of complexity.
  • Creative proposals to streamline important parts of the healthcare business model are popping up in many places. MedAvail is putting prescription vending machines at the point of need: hospital ERs and doctor’s offices, and in high-volume retailers that lack pharmacies. iVinci is creating financing product for consumers faced with large cost shares on hospital bills. Both are getting good traction. Businesses of this type are great opportunities for entrepreneurs.
  • Large parts of the healthcare industry rank at the bottom of customer satisfaction surveys, and many healthcare web sites have a user experience that would make the IRS blush. Many start-ups are aiming to improve this, but bear in mind that the big players will eventually learn to do a good job, much as many big retailers, banks, and P&C insurance companies now do a solid job on-line. Front-ending the government sites, on the other hand, will probably always be a business, as the government is just not in the business of delighting customers.

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