The myriad of inefficiencies in the U.S. healthcare system continues to contribute to the declining retention rates and burnout crisis affecting its workforce. Startups are eager to step in and create technology to address these inefficiencies, but these efforts often end up producing more hype than meaningful solutions, said David Chou, chief information officer at Legacy Community Health in Houston.
To avoid creating ineffective technology, startups should co-develop products with healthcare providers and figure out how to plant themselves into hospitals and clinics’ operating models, Chou argued during a Monday panel held by healthcare startup incubator Matter.
Chou said companies creating artificial intelligence to alleviate clinician burnout should make sure clinicians are involved during each stage of the development process, because the moment clinicians start thinking that a product might not fit into their workflow is when a company’s tool stops being useful.
Fellow panelist Joel Ray, Rex Healthcare’s vice president of patient care and chief nursing officer, agreed.
“It’s important that we open up this dialogue between frontline caregivers and industry so that we have the opportunity from the technology side to really create solutions for the challenges that our frontline caregivers are experiencing,” Ray said. “Without that, you can end up creating a solution that isn’t helpful to anyone.”
When Rex Healthcare is considering deploying new technology, the health system convenes a group of clinicians to review the vendor’s product and determine if it will be useful. Ray said doing this helps the health system build better solutions and move faster with its technology adoption processes because it does not waste time with technology that it knows will not fit into its workflows.
A startup’s failure to maintain close contact with the clinicians who deal with healthcare’s inefficiencies daily could cause the company to overlook critical operational challenges, according to Chou. For example, a startup selling hospital-at-home software may not consider all the logistical challenges hospitals face when it comes to shipping patients equipment or ensuring their care teams will be able to quickly respond if a patient’s acuity rises.
Since health tech startups entering the market need a keen familiarity with hospitals’ workflows and pain points, Chou thinks it is often best to start simple.
“I think most of the time companies try to create something that’s extremely sexy and extremely long term,” he said. “But hey, some of these simple pain points may take you pretty far.”
Clinics’ check-in and checkout processes are examples of a simple pain point in need of tech innovation. Chou pointed out that these processes could be as simple as it is for Americans to visit the gym, simply scanning a QR code and completing the check-in. Developing the technology to accelerate these processes will not transform healthcare as we know it, but they will make a difference by addressing a specific pain point elongating healthcare staff’s day.
But health tech companies may not even be fully aware of how a simple inefficiency like manual check-in fits into the day-to-day operations of a clinic. That is why hospitals need technology that has been co-developed by them and a startup partner. Commercial, off-the-shelf solutions will often miss the mark and not be transferable from facility to facility, Chou said.
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