Many A-list VC investors in HealthTech could use a lesson in Marketing and what’s on consumer’s minds.
I notice a lot of health apps are being developed by physicians. They are being funded by investors adding health to their portfolios. Some of these physicians are still in or just out of medical school. Some are mid-career. I wonder how much quality time these physicians have spent with patients.
Last time I checked, the average physician spends 20 minutes tops in clinical settings with each patient, ask all the wrong questions, write you a prescription and bill your insurance company an astronomical amount. Medical mistakes account for a lot of misdiagnosis or mistakes leading to death. In fact, it’s the THIRD leading cause of death in the United States. That’s right. Medical errors by physicians are the 3rd leading cause of death in the United States. A whopping 98,000 people a year die in hospitals due to preventable medical errors. The first leading cause of death in the U.S. is heart attacks, second is cancer. We hear more about the first two (from physicians!) than we do about the third –so much it drowns out numero tre.
Have any physicians created an app or gadget to address this little snafu? If I were a physician passionate about saving lives — this is a problem worth solving. Physicians know what goes on behind-the-scenes while a patient is under, so they are more qualified to address it. It’s a far bigger problem than physicians trying to shrink people’s waistlines by creating ways for them to count their calories or steps. People can count. Counting, measuring and scanning doesn’t solve any underlying issues or the cause of why someone is overeating, so it’s not going to cure obesity in the world. That’s another blog.
Please let me know if an app to help physicians fix medical errors is out there as it would save almost 100,000 lives each year. Is anyone even researching it to find out why? Is there any common thread in these mistakes? Is there lack of training? Is it misdiagnosis? Is it human error? Everyone makes mistakes. Mistakes lead to learning, improvements, discoveries –good can come of it. When mistakes kill 100,000 people a year…not good. That’s not including deaths from deadly side effects from prescribed medications or deadly interactions. We’ve all heard the super-fast scroll in pharmaceutical commercials saying, “May cause suicidal thoughts…” but media will quickly report a gun was used making guns the issue before any investigation is done about what prescribed medications the person was taking at the time. The average person is on 12 prescription medications a day. If a gun is the weapon. The medication is the bullet with the side effect of suicidal thoughts being the trigger. Pain meds are big business without anyone asking or caring about what is causing the pain in the first place. Physicians aren’t paid to care about you. They are paid to test you or treat your symptoms.
There are amazing, wonderful, compassionate physicians out there, and those are the ones you see people raving about or thanking on Facebook. Patient referrals by people you know and trust are the best way to learn about the great ones.
Great ones are in clinical settings seeing patients more than they are at conferences. It may be prestigious to them to get on stage and talk in front of peers about their latest discovery. TEDMed was a great way to “spread ideas.” But it’s a lot of different ideas. Have they ever collectively put their intelligence together to figure out a solution to ONE big problem instead of a hundred little ones? Imagine one brilliant solution that leads to reports that in year 2026 there were 2 deaths due to medical errors. That’s 1 billion lives saved in a decade.
Mid-career doctors make about 200K+ a year –less if they’re female. We’ve learned “some” physicians supplement their income by pushing pills on you. Some, not all. If a physician genuinely loves a product and is paid to be a spokesperson for it that’s fine as long as they disclose that. Some accept free gifts, free trips, payola –AND they win the first place prize for being the profession with the highest addiction rate. It’s so bad that patients should give their physician a drug test upon visiting them. If they pass it they can then fill out a Questionnaire asking 1. Who do they have financial ties or agreements with? 2. Have they accepted any free gifts within the year? and 3. How much debt do they have?
I reckon honest ones will scribble “A LOT” 3 x’s in illegible handwriting. Now, Physician-Slash-Entrepreneurs and their investors are betting on YOU spending more time on your phone using their apps.
Ironically, a new study says people who spend more time on their phones are depressed. They want to track your usage so as to identify who is depressed so they can treat you (write a prescription!) sooner. If more phone usage means you’re depressed then why are they creating apps that encourage you to use your phone more?
Speaking of phones, poor people get the sickest and use Emergency Rooms more than healthier people. If you talk to people in poor communities they do not even have Smart Phones, if any phone at all. More than likely, they have pre-paid Trac phones, so all these apps don’t even help or reach the people that need help the most.
Don’t get me wrong. I love doctors. I should have married one. I digress.
Bottom line: Too many doctors are figuratively and literally losing sight of the ME in Medical, which is the patient. That’s short-lived, like sex without love. Meaningless.
Hookups are old news. The so-called “Hookup Culture” was a trend that was tried and it failed miserably. Women, who make the majority of buying decisions decided it didn’t lead to a relationship. They felt used. Emotions get involved. They’re over it.
They want quality.
They want commitments.
They want healthy.
If you’re passionate about transforming Healthcare, don’t invest in a short-term fad. Invest in quality, long-term partnerships. This partnership needs to value the patient.
So far, my picks for apps that could help people are (not in any particular order): HEALTHYOUT, ALLERGY FT, TALKSPACE, SLEEP CYCLE, GLOW, HEALTHTAP and iTRIAGE. I have no ties to any of them.
HEALTHYOUT scans menus in restaurants for the healthiest choices (again, poor people left out), ALLERGY FT helps people with allergies detect allergens in menus in any country, TALKSPACE allows people to text a therapist 24/7 as a problem arises for $25/week, SLEEPCYCLE helps people track if they are getting enough deep sleep, GLOW helps women detect when they’re ovulating. HEALTHTAP connects patients with physicians, iTRIAGE allows people to ask questions before going to Emergency Room to determine if they should go (again, those that need it most may not have the right phone and someone is usually in too much pain to fiddle with a phone when they need to get to an ER).
People may have privacy concerns with TALKSPACE. So, all in all –nothing has revolutionized Healthcare.
23andME (kits to collect human genome to help predict genetic disease) received $80M in funding. Venture Capitalists and Physicians suddenly got interested in Health. 23and ME wasn’t started by a physician. It was developed by Anne E. Wojcicki. She took the test for med school, but decided on research in biology instead. Sidebar: Anne’s sister was the CEO of YouTube and a former executive at Google. Anne ended up marrying the co-founder of Google. They divorced two years later.
According to the World Health Organization in 2002, 7.1 million deaths are attributed to cancer each year. In 2003, they stated that number would increase 50% in the next 20 years. That would bring us into 2023. Yet, the World Health Organization itself states: “Studies have shown that the primary determinants of most cancers are lifestyle factors, such as tobacco, dietary and exercise habits, environment carcinogens and infectious agents, rather than inherited genetic factors. In fact, inherited cancer syndromes caused by high penetrance genes transmitted In fact, the proportion of cancers caused by high penetrance genes is low, about less than 5% for breast cancer and less for most other cancer types except retinoblastoma in children.”
Read the above again until it hits home. Cancer IS preventable. Just like mistakes are preventable. The focus and investment needs to be in prevention. Cancer can take 20 years to show up. By that time, you won’t recall the source and that’s what these companies bet on when they don’t inform you of exposure.
Recently, I thought it odd that a lot of people that worked at the same workplace got cancer. I did some research and found a lot of others who worked there in the past also got cancer and died from it at a young age. They were all exposed to something I’m investigating further to find out if there is indeed a connection. If there is one, other people are unknowingly being exposed to it right now. Finding causes is a healthy step in prevention of that 50% increase of cancer in the next 20 years.
If you’re an investor or entrepreneur with a passion to transform healthcare –invest in prevention. You make money in prevention from the Consumer. No one wants to get sick. Longevity does not matter one iota if it is not a healthy life. I have heard sick people say, “Shoot me now.” They don’t want to live long. They can’t even afford it.
It’s almost like funding is for the elite. We are rich. We can afford wearables on our wrists and eyes and play with our phones all day. Poor people working 9 to 5 at minimum wage have to put their phones away or they will get fired. When they are done working the emotional energy it takes to survive doesn’t leave time or money for much else.
If you Google “Physician Entrepreneurs” a long list of articles appear including one from Forbes entitled, “Why Physicians Are Turning to Startups” or Medscape’s “A New Direction: Physicians as Entrepreneurs” and my personal favorite, a new Society for them to pay to join called, “Society of Physician Entrepreneurs.” They claim to have 4700 members who pay to once again talk to each other. I bet these discussions last longer than 20 minutes or 90 seconds. Suddenly, they have time on their hands.
I notice physicians follow trends. There used to be a society called The National Association of Medical Communicators. I was a member. I was surprised how it was filled with physicians wanting to be on TV. They all wanted to Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Dr. Sanjay Gupta was a member. Well the physicians tired of it and the society no longer exists. Trends don’t last. All they do is make a quick buck from physicians who wannabe something else. Now, the trend is to be an entrepreneur. I’m certain they’re getting flooded with invites to entrepreneurial meetings and conferences costing thousands of dollars.
The new Society of Physician Entrepreneurs formed a 501K and are also asking to raise 250K to “get ideas to patients” through education. It doesn’t say how it will do that. It simply asks members to give them (physicians) money. Sounds like they’re coming up with all sorts of crafty ways to pay off their student loans and not have to be doctors.
If someone is passionate about transforming healthcare, the lengthy discussions need to be taking place with the healthcare consumer. What are their needs? How can they be helped? What are their experiences? But that discussion is not happening. You, the healthcare consumer are not invited to conferences around the world for Health 2.0, 3.0, 4.0 or Digital Health Conferences. You’re left out of the conversation because it isn’t about you. Their passion isn’t in transforming healthcare. They’re leaving the clinical side to transform their own disillusions with the healthcare system.
They’re seeking an out of healthcare. This will not bode well for investors or consumers. I wrote an article in the ’90s called, “Health News That’s Not Healthy.” It was published in BROADCASTING & CABLE Magazine. I criticized the use of physicians to report medical news in media. It began with the popular Dr. Art Ulene on the Today Show at NBC.
Journalists should be patient advocates questioning doctors on their behalf. Since the trend continued, consumers no longer trust on-air doctors. The lesson keeps getting lost.
In Media, Medical and Marketing –it’s the consumer that comes first.
Once you lose the consumer’s trust –you’re done. There is plenty of talent in the Digital Health Landscape. It looks safe to invest in talent –someone who attended all the right schools and knows all the right people. It’s a risk to invest in genius. The misfit. The crazies.
But that’s where the real disruption takes place. The next trillion dollar health idea will not come from a physician entrepreneur. It will come from a healthcare consumer.
Content is no longer King. It’s been dethroned. TRUST is King.
Let’s look at Medical, Media and Marketing. In Medical, medical students start out idealistic wanting to be excellent physicians, surgeons, researchers or scientists. Once enmeshed in the system, they find themselves walking on eggshells due to ties to Universities, Hospitals, Insurance Companies, Pharmaceutical Companies, Executives, CEOs, Shareholders, Boards, internal politics, Politicians and the list goes on. They learn the patient is a means to an end. The end being money. Get them in and out quick. Sell them this test, that scan, this drug, that therapy.
Then, there’s Media. Journalists start out idealistic wanting to bring the public trusted news. Once enmeshed in the system, they walk on eggshells tied to advertisers, sponsors, executives, CEOs, internal politics, shareholders, Politicians, experts and the list goes on. Get the news out their quick and first. Sell them fear, products, hype and ratings.
Then, there’s Marketing. Medical PR is a multi-billion dollar industry. Practically every commercial within TV programming is health related. Advertising firms being paid millions to create commercials and buy time during TV news programs and all other TV shows. Most are drugs from the Pharmaceutical Industry or Foods or Beverages that are bad for you.
Each network is competing for this Advertising dollars, which keeps them operating. In news operations, the CEO makes the most and a handful of on-camera people. That’s it. The rest don’t get paid enough to think or speak up when they see an injustice. They become part of the problem to keep their jobs. In the end, no real journalist feels like one. No real doctor feels like one when they’re in the system. Mainstream media is filled with fear and calamity. It keeps viewers in a state of anxiety. Anxiety is at the core of all addictions and illness. Advertisers and Broadcasters know that. They also know you’ll stop to watch a Train Wreck. That’s why you’re seeing the overuse of “Breaking News” now when it’s not even happening at that moment. It’s a game to keep you anxious, sick and glued to your TV. It’s the power of the mind with a free entry into it whenever you turn on the TV. Politicians jumped on board after Clinton played the saxophone on late-night TV and ratings soared. Since politicians want to influence your mind and your money –they’ve jumped into the brainwashing game.
So who has YOUR best interest in mind, especially when it comes to your health. You can’t even trust studies or research anymore. They’re paying off experts, physicians, researchers to publish articles that tell you to eat this or that or even make up ridiculous new diseases for your kids, pets, parents –you name it. Images and articles flooding your phone and computer.
They bought content you trusted and turned it untrustworthy.
But consumers are wiser than they think. They will now follow who they TRUST. And they will unfollow them if that trust is broken. Advertisers and Marketers need to wake up to the fact that consumers no longer trust physicians, government agencies, big charities, big PR firms.
They prefer to donate to individuals they know and trust, rather than large charities. They prefer advice from trusted friends, families or referrals from them. They will trust Spokespeople and experts they trust. They are sick of reality celebrities and news about them. They are sick of fashion models that don’t represent real people. They are sick of seeing the worst in humanity. They are sick of fake celebrities. Real people who actually love certain brands, products, services, physicians are the ones who Advertisers should put their money behind. Talk to the consumers.
If you want to sell something –let’s hear the pros and cons from real people that we know. Social media has connected everyone, but if you go to a physician’s Facebook wall –you see them talking to their circle of physicians, former classmates or family. I don’t see them talking to people with health concerns. In media, those physicians become more celeb like using their wall to self-promote stories that aired or will air.
There is room for something that can disrupt this Bermuda Triangle of Death. It’s HEALTHY WITHIN NETWORK.
I don’t know all the answers to how to do it. But I know why it’s needed –more than ever. Mainstream media can not continue to feed our minds with images and news that is unhealthy, one-sided, distorted or downright cringe-worthy if your kids or even your parents are in the same room. It’s disgusting. I believe we will continue to learn how a positive mindset can actually heal the body. What is trending on social media is not an indication of what people want to read or see. It’s an indication of the dumbing down of America. It’s an indication of what stories you’re being fed to incite fear, anxiety or simply distract you from truths. No wearable in health will make you healthier. It will be a novelty like a piece of jewelry that will end up in a junk drawer one day. Physicians can continue to high-five each other on getting funding from investors, but until you get a high-five from healthcare consumers, you’re in it for you –not patients. Every one in the whole wide world is a patient because we’re all into PREVENTION.
The next trillion dollar health disrupter is the informed healthcare consumer.
Right now, one of the best things you can do for your health is turn off the TV. You want to know the weather? Look out the window. News? If you must watch TV, limit it to one or two comedies if you must. The rest will make you sick. I highly recommend something with Jerry Seinfeld or Larry David.
I don’t know why, but I trust them. Jerry has too many cars, but I have too many baseball caps. It’s all relative.
Yes, the photo was click bait.
“Talent hits a target no else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see.” -Arthur Schoepenhaur
Stay healthy! :-)
Maria Dorfner is a health journalist and the founder of Healthy Within Network. This is her blog. Maria’s interest in health began as a child. Her favorite subjects were Health, Science, English, Marketing and Art. During college, she did an executive internship at NBC News. She was hired full-time upon graduating in 1986 with national Sigma Tau Delta Honors. Three years later, she helped launch their cable station, CNBC. Three years later, in 1993 she developed and co-hosted Healthcare Consumers and other health programs. The series aired weekly on CNBC for 3 years before she joined NBC Miami as their medical producer. Upon a relocation to North Carolina for her then husband’s job Maria founded NewsMD Communications, an award-winning full-service production company specializing in Health. Her first client was Discovery Health and a Who’s Who in Medicine. She worked out of Chapel Hill, NC and travelled extensively producing award-winning medical documentaries, segments and series, including 21st Century Medicine and The Cutting Edge Medical Report. She has interviewed pioneers in medicine who work tirelessly behind the scenes. She also wrote and produced for the Journal of he American Medical Association and others. She is the author of 3 books. Most recently, she won an Outstanding Leadership Award from her alma mater and continues to mentor students in journalism and health. Maria is also a Certified Water Aerobics Instructor, Scuba Diver, Sailor and enjoys swimming, hiking, biking, and learning in her spare time.
She can be reached at: email@example.com