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The Outsiders: Why Startups are Crucial to Changing the Broken Health Care System

A recent article in Forbes compiled the best healthcare quotes of 2012, and one quote in particular really resonated with me: “How many businesses do you know that want to cut their revenue in half? That’s why the healthcare system won’t change the healthcare system.”[1]

This is so true. Why would the healthcare system be motivated to change a business model that is making them trillions of dollars? Initiatives like the Affordable Care Act and the CMS Center of Innovation are developing incentive programs to develop new care delivery models and to tackle the issue of reimbursement, but we are not seeing change fast enough.

At Qualcomm Life we have talked to many healthcare companies over the years, from startups to the largest pharmaceuticals and medical device companies in the world. Additionally, we speak with many early stage companies by way of our Qualcomm Life Fund. Through these conversations it is clear to me that the “outsiders” at healthcare startups have a few major advantages. They are not saddled by the knowledge of what they think the healthcare system is capable of, for instance.  They don’t have years of unsuccessful attempts to bring about change in a broken system, but are looking at the problem in an entirely new and unconstrained light.

These outsiders are often times coming from the consumer electronics industry with insights into what makes consumers tick, what causes them to adopt new devices and how a compelling service can cause consumers to alter their lifestyle. As more connected health devices enter the market, we need leaders who understand that the value is really in the health services enabled by the data collected by the device, and not the device itself. A wireless blood pressure cuff in a hypertensive patient’s home is not going to reduce healthcare costs or improve health outcomes unless it is easy to implement for elderly patients, is interoperable with other medical devices and comes with a compelling service that actually allows consumers to better manage their health.

As we continue to see innovators shake up the current healthcare regime, bringing richer apps, evolved business models and cutting-edge technologies to the table, the healthcare system will change, and I personally am looking forward to seeing it unfold.

I’ll be at the annual Consumer Electronics Show this week discussing the need for new thinking in healthcare with Rock Health CEO, Halle Tecco. We will also be continuing the conversation online from @QualcommLife and @bootstrapped (my own account), and tagging tweets with #CES2013 and #bornmobile.

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