I recently finished binge-watching Marie Kondo’s new Netflix show, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, and after rifling through my apartment to see what still “sparked joy”— the tidying maven’s mantra — I began reflecting on the role of “joy” in healthcare. In December, at our Canaan Breakfast Club, we gathered to talk healthcare innovation with One Medical founder Tom Lee. One Medical has succeeded in sparking joy by channeling classic consumer principles of brand, data, efficiency and consumer delight. But for most, much of healthcare is still sorely lacking on the “joy” front.
How did One Medical do it and how can the rest of the industry build on what they started? From our discussion with Tom and founders from Tia, Kindbody, Eden Health, Maven, Oshi, Annum, WellPass and Heartbeat Health, here are three of the takeaways that healthcare innovators can channel to “spark joy” and capture consumers’ loyalty.
Guidance: Be the hand-holding healthcare BFF that every consumer wishes they had by their side.
For the millennial generation in particular, there is a need for a trusted brand to help navigate an increasingly complex system. In a recent viral BuzzFeed News article naming millennials as The Burnout Generation, one characterization rang particularly true:
“Finding a doctor — and not just any doctor, but one who will take your insurance, who is accepting new patients — might seem like an easy task in the age of Zocdoc, but the array of options can be paralyzing without the recommendations of friends and family, which are in short supply when you move to a brand-new town.”
The opportunity is ripe for a startup to build trust through a deep understanding of the system and an impeccable consumer experience. Done well, it would unlock the significant downstream spending in healthcare. Tia, the women’s health advisor app-turned-NYC-clinic is a great example. The chat-based app allows women to ask questions about their health and receive helpful advice and scientific data — complete with gifs and emojis as if you were DMing with your BFF on Instagram. Pill Club is another that takes the consumer phenomenon of “unboxing” to new heights. They deliver birth control as if it were a birthday present from your bestie, inspiring users to actually post about it on YouTube and Instagram.
Talent: Think you’re frustrated by the bureaucracy of the healthcare system? Try being a doctor.
Physician burnout is an epidemic in the US. In a Mayo Clinic study published in 2015, findings showed that over half of physicians (54%) showed at least one symptom of burnout, up from 45% in 2011. This burnout is leading to a shortage of doctors, which in turn disrupts continuity and availability of care for patients. Moreover, that burnout isn’t coming from patient difficulties, but rather administrative burdens such as EHR management and payers/pre-authorizations.
Startups looking to transform care delivery models need to not only think about how to change the consumer experience, but also the physician experience. Take UK-based messaging app, Forward Health, which has created the “Slack for surgeons.” They have implemented a consumer behavior everyone knows well — text messaging — but this time professionalized for the hospital (bye bye pagers!). NY-based co-working space, Alma, builds community for mental health providers, typically found as solo-practitioners, and gives them a full tech-stack to build their practice, all inside a beautiful setting. Kindbody, a reimagined women’s fertility clinic, recognized the gap for younger reproductive endocrinologists (REIs) who have few career options to choose from — as most private fertility practices are run like small fiefdoms with little opportunity for growth. By creating a place where REIs can build their career, Kindbody captures one of the most valuable resources in this field: talent.
In any marketplace model, you have to carefully build up both the supply and demand side. So far, the consumer demand for healthcare services has quickly outpaced the supply. Herein lies the opportunity: startups that can efficiently aggregate supply by attracting the best physician talent will have a major competitive advantage. Build streamlined tech stacks, cultivate values-aligned teams, create a beautiful work environment — then physicians can focus on what they were trained to do: serve patients.
Data: Empower consumers to be the frontline staff of healthcare.
One way to address rising healthcare costs and shortage of physicians is put power in the hands of the consumer. A number of startups are vying to do this through various means, such as Glow and Clue for ovulation and menstrual cycle-tracking; Everlywell and Modern Fertility for at-home diagnostics, K-health for primary care diagnoses powered through machine learning, or Lemonaid and Maven for telemedicine treatment and prescription services.
This shift towards consumer empowerment is happening across the board. Trackers, once only associated with “fitness fanatics” — are now an everyday part of life, a trend being driven by consumer brands like Apple, not traditional providers. The Apple Watch has opened up treasure troves of health data — movement, sleep, ECG — empowering consumers to track it in Apple’s open EHR, or in one of the numerous health apps being built on top of Apple data.
Having greater continuity of data outside of the doctor’s office enables both the doctor and the patient to be more effective. Clinics like Forward actually give members wearable devices to continually track health data as part of an ongoing, preventative conversation with their physicians. This data has the potential to reduce in-office visits and wasteful services. It puts consumers in the driver’s seat so that they better understand what services they need, know how to find the right physicians or services and have the most accurate data to share to ensure effective treatment. A consumer in control of their own health — now that sparks joy.
Guidance, talent and data are just three themes that came out of our conversation. But as we all know, the opportunity is massive (1).
In order to create lasting change in healthcare, we need to combine deep industry knowledge with consumer tech principles, all hewing to regulation. There are valid concerns that the “consumerization” of healthcare could upset the delicate balance of payers, providers and patients. Yet, to address the large-scale problems facing the healthcare industry, consumers must be part of the solution.
At Canaan, we have a 31-year history of investing in both healthcare and technology and at this moment, the two sectors are converging more than ever. While healthcare innovators must be sure to understand the nuances of the industry, a lot can also be learned from the exemplars of consumer tech to help engage patients, drive compliance and yes, even spark joy.
The author and tidying queen Marie Kondo.
(1) The national health expenditure now accounts for 18% of GDP — $3.5 trillion. And, in 2017 it grew 3.9%, faster than GDP at 2.3%. The US spends more per capita than any other country, yet life expectancy is lower than countries that spend half as much. Definitely not joyful.