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Nokia May Exit Digital Health Business

Posted on March 2, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

The digital health market has become phenomenally competitive over the last few years, with giants like Google and Apple duking it out with smaller, fast-moving startups over the choicest opportunities in the sector.

Even with a behemoth like Google, you expect to see some stumbles, and the Internet giant has taken a few. But seldom have we seen a billion-dollar company walk away from the digital health market, which arguably stands to grow far more. Still, according to a recent news report, that’s just what Nokia may be doing.

A story published in The Verge reports that the Finnish telecom giant has launched a strategic review of its health division. While Nokia apparently isn’t spilling the beans on its plans, the news site got a look at an internal company memo which suggests that its digital health business is indeed in trouble.

In the memo, The Verge says, Nokia chief strategy officer Kathrin Buvac wrote that “our digital health business has struggled to scale and meet its growth expectations… [And] currently, we don’t see a path for [the digital health business] to become a meaningful part of a company as large as Nokia.”

While it’s hard to tell much from a press release, it notes that Nokia’s digital health division makes and sells an ecosystem of hybrid smart watches, scales and digital health devices to consumers and enterprises. Its digital health history includes the acquisition of Withings, a French startup with a sexy line up of connected health-focused digital health devices.

This may be in part because it just hasn’t been aggressive enough or offered anything unique. In the wake of the Withings acquisition, Nokia doesn’t seem to have done much to build on Withings’ product line. Though much of the success in this market depends on execution, its current roster of products doesn’t sound like anything too exciting or differentiated.

It’s interesting to note that Buvac blames at least part of the failure of its digital health excursion on Nokia’s size. That doesn’t seem to be a problem for industry-leading companies like Apple, which seems to be carving out its digital health footprint one launch at a time and cultivating health leaders along the way. For example, Apple recently partnered with Stanford Medicine launch an app using its smartwatch to collect data on irregular heart rhythms. Arguably, this is the way to win markets and influence people — slow and steady.

In the end, though, Buvac is probably right about is digital health prospects. Nokia’s seeming failure may indeed be attributed to its sprawling portfolio, and probably an inflexible internal culture as well. The moral of the story may be that winning at the digital health game has far more to do with understanding the market than it does with having very deep pockets.

Is Healthcare Overhead Holding Back New #DigitalHealth Solutions?

Posted on May 18, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Earlier this year I wrote an article that questioned whether the Fitbit was really a digital health solution. I essentially came to the conclusion that Fitbit’s health data wasn’t clinically relevant and so that’s why we didn’t see it really impacting healthcare as we know it.

While Fitbit’s data may not be clinically relevant, Fitbit has still gone on to be an extremely successful wearable technology solution for consumers. For some reason we enjoy tracking our steps whether it really improves our health or not. Of course, maybe they’re also riding our own misconception that tracking steps improves health. Regardless, they’ve been extremely successful and haven’t had to prove that they actually do anything to move the needle in healthcare.

I wonder if this is the model that we’ll see happen most with digital health solutions. Instead of trying to actually take part in the ruthless, brutal, and complex healthcare infrastructure, I expect we’ll see most digital health solutions work on the outside.

Think about the overhead that comes with becoming FDA cleared or the overhead that comes with proving to a hospital that your solution really does improve patients’ health. That’s a lot of work compared with just creating the illusion of health and selling it directly to consumers. Maybe the illusion will play out as reality or maybe it will not. From a company’s point of view, all you have to do is keep the illusion in play and you can be successful.

No doubt this later strategy appeals to the startup culture that’s been created in the US. There’s so little that’s “lean startup” of MVP (minimum viable product) in healthcare. Most people in healthcare are afraid of anything that’s not mature. Healthcare regulations certainly discriminate against experimentation and show bias to mature technologies.

The only case that really can be made to entrepreneurs who want to pursue the harder path of proving their technologies is that once they’ve proved it they have a great defense against competitors who haven’t gone to that effort. That’s a powerful incentive, but not one that most will appreciated when starting a digital health startup company.

My gut tells me that the complexities of healthcare are holding many innovations from happening in healthcare. That’s unfortunate.

Digital Health Is Hard

Posted on October 28, 2015 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I love talking to entrepreneurs. I like to describe entrepreneurship as my hobby. However, the more I talk with entrepreneurs, the more I realize how hard it is to build a company. We should know this since 90% of startup companies fail. I’ve started saying that the more I learn about starting a company, the more I wonder how any companies are successful. There are so many things that can cause a startup company to fail.

I think it’s fair to say that starting a company is hard.

Now you add on the complexities of healthcare and I’d suggest that digital health is even harder. Sure there might be some other industries that compete with healthcare on how hard it is to start a company, but it would be a very competitive competition to see which industry is more competitive. The reality is that it doesn’t matter if healthcare is harder or easier than other industries. That doesn’t change the fact that creating a digital health company is hard.

There are a wide variety of digital health companies out there. However, most of them I’ve seen are focused on one of these 4 areas: Payers, Hospitals/Health Systems (Enterprises), Doctors, or Patients. There are a few other variations, but that encapsulates the majority of digital health companies out there.

Selling something to any one of these 4 groups is a real challenge. The rigor that’s required by Payers, health systems, and doctors is incredible. Plus, even if you have a product that will benefit their organization it’s such a complex sales cycle for payers and health systems that you better be in it for the long haul. There’s very rarely one gatekeeper you need to convince that your product will benefit the organization. There are multiple gatekeepers and any one of them could derail the implementation of your product and solution.

Yes, it’s a bit easier to sell directly to doctors and patients, but there are so many of them and they are getting so many messages that it provides its own unique set of challenges. Doctors do have a lot of decision making power. This is particularly true in smaller practices and solo doc practices. However, they’ve got the constant barrage of messaging from every which way that it’s hard to make your message stand out. Remember that as a digital health company you’re competing with pharma companies who literally have boots on the ground visiting every doctor. That’s tough.

In the patient space there are so many fly by night apps out there that it’s a highly competitive market. Sure, you could have a viral hit with patients and it starts spreading like wildfire, but remember that a product that spreads virally also declines at a similar rate. Plus, viral spreading of an app is rare. In fact, there’s almost always a deep amount of work, sweat and tears behind the story of “viral” success.

Of course, in this post I’ve mostly talked about the challenges of marketing your healthcare IT product. I’m probably in that state of mind as I’m planning the healthcare IT marketing and PR conference. However, it’s just as hard to build a product that actually provides provable benefit to the users across the widely diverse healthcare system.

Digital health is hard. Startups are hard. That’s why we need more entrepreneurs with the special DNA to take on hard challenges. However, don’t underestimate how hard it is to built a digital health company. Of course, all the entrepreneurs reading this will take that as a challenge or disagree with me. That’s what makes them special.

HISUM2012 Videos: The Act of Grant Getting in Health IT & Sciences

Posted on March 13, 2012 I Written By

Exploring different funding mechanisms for digital health startups. Here they explore angel funding, grants, incubators, and venture funds. The panel is comprised of Rowan Chapman (VC – MDV) Ann DeGheest (Angel) Halle Tecco (Incubator) Jennifer Shieh (NIH).

 

 

Watch the video here.