The country is in the midst of a major shift in the healthcare economy and there's lots of money to be had. Healthcare providers and better-informed customers want better quality products and services. And, thanks to an improved national economy and the passage of the 21st Century Cures Act, there will be billions flowing into research and care. It is a good time to be a healthcare entrepreneur, but it still isn't easy.
The Good News
According to The Washington Post, the 21st Century Cures Act, signed on December 13, 2016, "aims to increase funding for medical research, speed the development and approval of experimental treatments and overhaul federal policy on mental health care." Each of those paths offers entrepreneurs promising opportunities.
In the words of HealthcareITNews, "The bi-partisan legislation provides $6.3 billion to electronic health records, precision medicine, mental health and interoperability." Much of this money will flow to established power players in pharmaceutical research, but all the beneficiaries will be looking for products and services that can facilitate compliance with the Act, speed product to the market and improve patient care.
The Bad News
Accessing the available funds will remain challenging. While the Cures Act does not create a new bureaucracy, it poses mandates for existing departments and agencies to deliver. It will naturally take time for them to adapt and comply.
The new administration's stance on federally supported healthcare has been publicly negative. But, its ability to undo existing law is hobbled. The Cures Act, for example, has overwhelming bi-partisan support, and it serves the interests of many large corporations.
So, there is money to profit, needs to resolve and hunger for innovation. At the same time, those who have shovel-ready products and projects have a distinct edge in making inroads and money.
What You Can Do
Interested? The time for action is now. And there's an assortment of things to get started whether you're transitioning into digital healthcare from within or outside the industry.
- Join the most active healthcare and/or healthcare IT meetups in your area. These events have grown to the tune of 250,000 healthcare industry members around the world.
- There are investment clubs out there that specialize in healthcare and healthcare tech. These types of clubs and organizations are the perfect place to begin on-the-court training about the financial workings of a deal. Don't have an investment club near you? Start one.
- Get to know your industry angel investors, who they are, what they look for, and what you can do for them. Not what they can do for you.
- Keep an eye on healthcare startup activity, to know who's on the rise, and what trends are indicating. Healthcare IT News has a running list of them.
Where Entrepreneurs Should Be Looking
There are no unicorns here, nor magic bullets. But, as long as the system is flush with dollars, there's money to be made by entrepreneurial passion and risk taking.
"Healthcare is a huge industry, and any time there is change, there's going to be opportunities for entrepreneurs to find success," said Hoala Greevy, Founder and CEO of Paubox. "Not only in directly related services and products, but in the ancillary areas like operations, communications, and support."
Perhaps the biggest opportunity lies in consulting. The enormous length and complexity of the healthcare acts require advice and training. This is an opportunity for new content and delivery systems for evidence of best practices.
What's Likely To Happen
Jonathan Rauch, a senior fellow at The Brookings Institute parses the potential this way:
On the demand side, there will be "pressure on providers and insurers to reduce cost growth." On the supply side, there will be an exponential growth in information technology and analytical tools.
Value-driven business models are looking for efficiency-improving products and services requiring disruptive and entrepreneurial talent. Anything this transformational forces business-model innovation that traditional provider models cannot deliver.
Huge, complex, entrenched bureaucracies have long dominated the healthcare economy. But, new need and expectations are geared to the efficiencies and speed that only entrepreneurs can deliver. There's no use in waiting for all things to be equal. Entrepreneurs willing to take the risk and innovate products and services can define the direction of the healthcare future.