A business accelerator helps advance the lagging healthcare industry
Perhaps no one understands the inefficiencies plaguing the global healthcare industry better than Nina Nashif. After more than 15 years of experience in healthcare management, Nashif believes she has found a viable solution to the sector's woes: entrepreneurs.
In 2011 she founded Healthbox, a business-accelerator platform for early-stage healthcare-technology startups, to "advance innovation in the industry and to speed the pace at which it's identified and implemented."
Large healthcare organizations traditionally innovate from the inside out--a labyrinthine process that stalls progress. Nashif believes that if these organizations become early adopters of entrepreneurial solutions, co-creation will allow for faster advancement and, ultimately, more effective patient care. Healthbox's model aims to put together an ecosystem that allows entrepreneurs to access the industry resources and knowledge they need to build their businesses.
"Part of the challenge is that the system is so complicated, and often as an entrepreneur you don't even know where to enter. Every hospital and healthcare organization is different, so we spend a lot of time early on in the program helping entrepreneurs find where they fit in the context of the industry, really getting down to the details of how their solution would impact the operational process within [that organization]," says Chicago-based Nashif, who spoke at the TEDMed conference last year and was named a "Young Global Leader" by the World Economic Forum. "At the same time, we're out evangelizing in the industry, talking about how to become an early adopter."
One Healthbox portfolio startup addressing the growing patient-engagement space is 3Derm Systems in New Haven, Conn. Its low-cost platform lets users take photos of moles on their skin and send them to a dermatologist for remote monitoring and checkups.
"As we move toward different payment models in the industry and the need to provide value and outcomes, and large providers are needing to take risk for the population they're managing, we need to empower patients to care for themselves … and manage health in a more effective way," Nashif says.
Since its launch, Healthbox has supported 54 health-tech companies and 134 founders through its accelerator programs in London, Boston, Chicago, Nashville, Tenn., and Jacksonville, Fla. Beyond the training and support they receive in exchange for up to 7 percent equity, all startups that participate in the 16-week program receive up to $50,000 in funding, office space and access to healthcare experts.
The companies that have completed the program have, on average, doubled their number of partnerships. They have secured some 130 pilot programs and early customer relationships and were projected to affect the lives of more than 1 million people globally in 2013.
"We're not trying to come in and disrupt the industry; we're trying to work alongside it," Nashif says. "We're going to be seeing new delivery models, new partnerships, new ways that we manage populations and risk. I'd like to see that there are more entrepreneurs at the table and new solutions being brought in, vs. just the big players. In healthcare we need to start taking more small bets instead of [looking for] the one solution that's going to solve all our problems." --Michelle Juergen