Healthcare Startup Ideas for You

“Ideas are cheap, execution is everything.”

Over the past few years, I’ve been fortunate enough to work with many people across healthcare as a doer, entrepreneur, and advisor. What’s been overwhelmingly clear and consistent throughout my journey is just how many people are wanting to bring new and “disruptive” innovations to fix our very broken system (in the USA).

I often hear from excited and curious minds that they wish to make a difference but don’t know what to do or where to start.

Healthcare is a tangled web of chaos that many seasoned veterans are scared to innovate in, let alone entrepreneurs who’ve never even used the healthcare system. Any innovation or “disruption” not only requires a ton of work but tremendous insight (and foresight) in navigating this web just to get started.

I’m here to help. I believe any innovation is better than none. It doesn’t matter who you are or how much experience you have, as long as you have passion, drive, and commitment.

I’m here to share with you ideas on what I believe can be successful healthcare startups. They are inspired through my own observations, experiences, and discussions with friends. I hope one (or many) of you will help bring these ideas to reality.

Idea #1: “Snapchat” Counseling / Behavioral Health for Students

One of the hot button topics in recent memory surrounds mental / behavioral health care options for the student population. How do we provide the right accessibility and type of care they need?

  • Problem: Improving student behavioral health continues to be top of mind for academic institutions. Despite record high use of counseling services, stigma keeps many student from opening up and getting the help they need.
  • Solution: Bring “tele-therapy” / virtual services so more students can have the access to care they need without the shame, embarrassment, and inconvenience. Use existing channels students use daily to bring help, such as: Snapchat, Yik Yak. Why not give each counselor a snapchat account? What about expanding to have more remote/virtual counselors to meet high student demands?
  • Challenges: (1) Healthcare privacy / HIPAA will be challenging to bring care through existing solutions like Snapchat — but nothing is impossible without someone willing to take a risk. (2) Cost/reimbursement (3) Regulation / state-by-state licensing of care providers (4) Medication
  • How to get started: I would strongly advise against building a telepsychiatry software product first. We don’t need another skype/ facetime/ webRTC. Use or modify a channel students already heavily use today. Focus first on seeing if this idea can solve a problem for academic institutions and meeting needs of students. Talk with medical directors / nurses / counselors at schools to pilot a program using existing social platforms like Snapchat. Further, don’t fall into the rabbit-hole of fixing reimbursement or licensing issues as those are industry wide problems.

Idea #2: Quantified-self “urine analysis”

The Island (2005)

We’ve been on a bit of a hype-train when it comes to quantified self devices (e.g., FitBit devices of the world). One of the big challenges is whether or not these devices can bring real value to detecting, preventing, and ultimately improving our health. There are many theories but might ultimately take a combination of internet-of-things, device connectivity networks, and big data analytics to come together before something really meaningful arrives. Meanwhile, here’s my take.

  • Problem: Are there quantified-self use cases that might more directly tie-in to impacting our immediate health? Can we create something that’s unobtrusive, always monitoring but without requiring extra human activation (such as wearing a device)?
  • Solution: Some type of urine monitoring / urinalysis solution. A device that can attach to existing toilets to allow the capture and rapid analysis of urine.
  • Challenges: (1) Urinalysis is not perfect, but can there be a consumer version that gets us enough information to take action when a change or anomaly is detected for a specific set of conditions? (2) Is it about a probe? test strip? or something else? (3) How do you design a device for the home with toilet water, multiple users, etc? (4) Advanced consumer products (like Japanese toilets) already do this so let’s not create yet another toilet. Is there a more relevant “version 2.0” urinalysis for household consumers of today?
  • How to get started: Designing a consumer product and potential medical device is very complicated and will likely face FDA approvals. In order to tackle the urine space, you must find a balance with your MVP product. What question do you want to answer first and what can you use already in market that can get you there the quickest? I would want to first answer if quantified-self tracking of urine can lead to some type of medical benefit or if there is unmet desire for a product like this. I would avoid designing a new medical device for FDA approvals (for as long as possible). Perhaps I would Macgyver up some type of urine analysis machine that can use existing urine testing strips but outfit that for a standard toilet and go from there.

What do you think? I’d love to hear your comments.

Follow me @Mike Hua or on twitter @mikehua