After working with multiple products (including co-founding one) over the years, the learning are endless. Lately, have been assisting Healthcare startups across their life-cycle (ideation to growth and sustenance).
While working with startups at different stages, have interacted with CEOs, CTOs, SMEs, Product Managers, Engineering Managers, Professional Services team members, and Support groups. All of them play an important role to make sure the products are successful. Following are the roles across different stages of the product: Ideator, Researcher, Customer Acquirer, Scaler, and Sustainer. These roles may be played by same or different people at different stages.
How are these roles different compared to roles in High-tech product companies? The different is the domain expertise i.e. Subject Matter Expertise (SMEs). Almost everyone involved in the product development (or its engineering partner), needs to have the domain expertise. The developer who is building / creating a module needs to understand the needs of end-user. I am not just referring to User Experience, the developer should imbibe the essence of the use-cases to the T.
Ideator and Researcher:
The most interesting phase, for me, while working with a Healthcare startup is Ideation phase. Its a very unpredictable phase, i.e. Time and Effort estimation is variable. There are so many parameters to be considered while defining a minimum viable product (for e.g. ideas, compliance, market readiness, persona of the user and the buyer, size of the market, etc). Making the product compliant to HIPAA or CMS (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) or FDA adds to the complexity. Researching on how are others addressing changes to compliance, takes a lot of time. For e.g. MDPP (Medicare Diabetes Prevention Program) was recently rolled out, if someone is building a care plan product for Diabetes management, they will have to alter features of their product to reap the benefit of this program. That's one of the few reasons why Ideator and Researcher role is most dynamic and interesting.
This role defines the success or failure of the product. Assuming the product is an answer to a puzzle of a Provider or Payer, the Customer Acquirer has to understand that language and relate to each of the nuances. Most often this person has been in the shoes of the buyer in his/her previous life (i.e. before selling the product). Positioning of the product keeps changing based on the situation, the demo data changes, and use-cases are redefined. Co-founders who have played the role of ideator and / or researcher play this role beautifully. Common input shared by our customers (Faichi) - "there is a lot of interest, we have shown many demos to prospect, hoping to close one soon".
Once "Customer Acquirer" has added customers consistently, a role of Scaler comes into play. Startups start inter-operating their product with other healthcare products (e.g. EHRs / EMRs, Billing Apps, Telehealth, etc). Scaling the product to support multiple users and international languages (web or mobile) requires a lot of experience. Challenges for Scaler is different than the previous roles, for e.g. integrating a product with EHRs is technically not challenging, however, getting buy-in of the end-customer to provide full access to EHR needs different skills. One of our customer, at Faichi, integrated their Wellness product with five different EHRs.
This role is perhaps the easiest compared to others listed above. This role has to ensure customers don't jump to competing products / platforms. Customer operations have to be smooth and their SLAs have to be met. Challenges arise when the product is old or it needs an overhaul to leverage latest technologies.
Happy to hear views on other business/ technology roles within a Healthcare startup.