Why Does Most Healthcare Technology Suck? … and how do we fix it?

A lot of healthcare tech sucks, especially when compared to modern day counterparts in other industries. Pardon my French, but it’s true.

As a partner at Bessemer, I get the privilege of meeting the country’s best entrepreneurs who show us their world-class products and technologies targeted at a large array of industries (consumer internet, enterprise cloud, fintech, cyber, etc.). It is truly inspiring. But sadly, when I compare this to what is considered “state of the art” in the healthcare industry that I love and in which I work, it can be a bit depressing. Healthcare is simply behind the times. Just consider the fact that one of the main programming languages still used in the industry was written in 1966! And take a look below at the UX of the most widely used piece of healthcare technology . . .

It looks like Windows 95, right? As the great Metallica lyric goes, “It’s sad but true!”

Luckily, in recent years, the quality of product has rapidly evolved with the rise of the digital health revolution, the onslaught of venture dollars and new-age tech entrepreneurs entering the sector. These entrepreneurs have brought much-needed modern-day design principles to an industry that has used “green screen” technology for far too long.

But a great product isn’t great just because it’s beautiful! It needs to be a product that customers enjoy engaging with and do so frequently and, as a result, are willing to pay for.

Unfortunately, when you measure most healthcare products against these three important factors (beauty, engagement, willingness to pay), very few make the grade of being a “great” product. For example, I can’t tell you the number of times I have been pitched by a healthcare tech company that has raised tens to hundreds of millions of venture capital and yet the engagement rate (measured on a monthly or even annual active user metric) is sub 10%!

So why is it so darn hard to build great healthcare products? I could posit that there are a number of interrelated factors that developers simply don’t face in most other industries — unsophisticated technology users, complex tasks, integration and interoperability challenges, regulatory and compliance hurdles, a payment regime which often separates the “user” and the “economic buyer.” The list of challenges is long!

But I am far from an expert here so thought it made sense to invite three of the country’s best healthcare product minds (Jeremy Delinsky, Julie Yoo, Dave Hodgson) to talk about this very important issue. I think this is the best “A Healthy Dose” podcast to date! My hope is it will provide key insights for healthcare entrepreneurs working to build and bring great product into an industry that desperately needs it.


Steve Kraus is recognized as one of the top healthcare investors in the country, with a unique combination of VC, healthcare and policy experience. He serves on the Massachusetts Digital Health Council, as an advisor to Boston Children’s Hospital, BCBS MA, and Rock Health, and co-hosts “A Healthy Dose” — a podcast focused on healthcare innovation, policy and trends. You can listen and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or SoundCloud.

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