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Health startups, don’t put lipstick on the pig

Want to have a successful digital health startup? Be honest. Understand the market. Know your capabilities in terms of innovation and technological and human resources. And, above all, focus on the people you have and the problems you are trying to address.

“The biggest issue is focus,” Dr. Barry P. Chaiken, Boston-based CMIO at enterprise software developer Infor and a veteran of clinical transformation through health IT, said Monday in Madison, Wis. “Don’t get distracted,” Chaiken explained. “You’ve got to know when to pivot and you’ve got to know when not to pivot.”

Chaiken keynoted and chaired a preconference day for emerging health IT companies to meet with healthcare CIOs, potential investors and established vendors, ahead of WTN Media’s annual Digital Healthcare Conference on the campus of the University of Wisconsin.

Pay more attention to usability of a product or relevance of a service than to outward appearance, Chaiken advised. He equated building a slick interface without a strong, useful underlying product to putting lipstick on a pig.

Unleash the power of employees and allow failure, Chaiken said. “You can’t succeed marvelously unless you fail marvelously,” he added.
Invoking Steve Jobs, he further advised startups to build what customers need, not what they want. “Think about what people use and could use and how you can make their lives better,” Chaiken explained.

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