7 Lessons for UK HealthTech Entrepreneurs
Starting a healthcare business in the UK can feel like trying to navigate a maze while juggling. It’s a challenge but it’s not impossible.
With the right approach and understanding of the complex healthcare landscape, healthcare entrepreneurs can succeed in creating innovative solutions that benefit both patients and the system as a whole.
Here are our seven important lessons for healthcare entrepreneurs in the UK:
1. Don’t be a solution in search of a problem
Make sure you haven’t created a solution that needs to search for a problem. It’s like trying to sell sand in the desert, but with worse odds. Instead focus on addressing an unmet need that resonates with patients and clinicians – too many healthcare start-ups are product obsessed, and that can lead to communicating the value poorly to your customer.
2. Regulation is your permission to play
Medical device regulation can be complex and recently it’s about as straightforward as reading War and Peace. Nonetheless, it is essential for entrepreneurs to understand the regulations and ensure that their products comply with them. Most importantly, make sure to look into this early on in your journey. Many come to the realisation too late and find themselves setting up new studies to generate regulatory-level quality data that could have been collected earlier.
Remember, non-compliance can lead to legal issues and can harm the reputation of your business. So, it’s important to do the necessary research and get the right certifications to ensure that the product proves itself to be safe and effective.
3. Do you know who you’re talking to?
It’s not Cluedo, but almost. Understanding the different stakeholders in the healthcare landscape is crucial for entrepreneurs. Knowing who the end-user is, who the decision-maker is, and who the value is being provided to is essential, so make sure you tailor your communication depending on who you’re speaking to. Remember, an NHS Trust’s Chief Financial Officer will have different interests to a Trust’s Chief Information Officer, who will have different interests to your clinical champions.
Make sure you understand who’s an influencer, who’s a customer and who’s the payor and how your solution can fit into their plans.
4. Don’t be a stranger
Wooing the NHS from abroad is like trying to get an American to understand cricket; it just doesn’t work. The NHS is a complex multi-layered organisation that prefers to deal with people on the ground that can feel its pain and speak its language. So don’t let yourself be persuaded by your investors that the UK can be accessed from afar.
Healthcare entrepreneurs who want to do business in the UK need to invest in local leadership to ensure they have the right connections and knowledge of the healthcare system. This will pay off in the future.
5. Yes, your technology is amazing; no, I’m not buying it
A clear value proposition is like a defibrillator. It shocks your potential customers into action and shows them why your solution is essential. No one will spend money on a solution to a problem they don’t have or one that is more easily resolved, so make sure to demonstrate a clear value proposition to your potential customers.
A well-defined value proposition should show how the product or service will save money or improve patient care using objective data. This is essential for attracting investors, securing funding, and demonstrating your product’s value.
6. The centre can hold – it’s where the money comes from
Understanding national priorities set out by the NHS and the Department of Health and Social Care is like reading a choose-your-own-adventure book. Pick the right path and you’ll be rewarded with central funding pots; choose poorly, and you’ll end up lost in the healthcare wilderness.
Although most of your customers will be acting at a local level, they’re going to be heavily influenced and/or incentivised by national priorities. Make sure you align with these as they will prove your solution is relevant to today’s initiatives.
7. The UK is a tough market to scale in, so why bother?
Approaching the NHS can feel like entering a Great British Bake-Off kitchen. It’s the perfect place for healthcare entrepreneurs to conduct early studies and establish partnerships. Collaborating with the NHS will give you access to real-world data and valuable insights to help you “bake” a successful start-up.
Be realistic though. The UK will not be the only place that you make significant returns to your investors. Nonetheless, it’s a great first step into an international market with a diverse population, a dynamic life science sector, rigorous and world-leading institutions and a strong understanding of the value of healthtech innovation.
By Nadin Youssef