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What you should learn from the Google Health failure

There used to be a time when almost everyone was asking, “What would Google do with sickcare?”

Google health has pulled the plug on their sickcare venture. So did Haven. So did Microsoft. Maybe if the folks in the corner offices (remember those) or at their beach villas working from home talked to some doctors sooner, things might have been better. You remember who doctors are, right? They are those people in the white coats who actually take care of the patients you are trying to convince to use your products.

However, Google, by no means, is getting out of the sickcare business. Google says it is ramping up its investments in health-focused initiatives even as it dissolves its single unified health division. They are reorganizing and focusing on other products and services.

What can startups, scaleups and other grownups trying to tame the sickcare beast learn from these megafailures?

  1. Know when to pull the plug and learn from your mistakes

2. Don’t make the two most common reasons why your venture will fail. Adam Bosworth, a former manager of Google Health, who left in 2007 before the service was introduced, said the service could not overcome the obstacle of requiring people to laboriously put in their own data.

“In the end,” Mr. Bosworth said, “it was an experiment that did not have a compelling consumer proposition.” In other words, it was a solution looking for a problem.

  1. Don’t buy into the myth that patients are good consumers and are eager to take care of themselves. Even when the relatively few patients do give DIY medicine a shot, to use a COVIDism, here are the perils and pitfalls.
  2. Realize how hard it is to change doctor and patient behavior
  3. Sickcare is a personal services business, not a technology business that happens to take care of patients.
  4. Patients rarely, if ever, want to pay for anything that has to do with their health if someone else will. That’s why everyone is chasing B2B models, like self-insured employers, instead of B2C models
  5. You have to offer a compelling value proposition to multiple sickcare stakeholders simultaneously, not just the patient, to be successful
  6. Follow the money
  7. Automate your technology solution so end users have to do as little work as possible. I recently bought an at home blood pressure cuff from an online medical department store (no, not Amedzon) that measures my blood pressure, tells you when the cuff in not on my arm correctly, measures pulse rate too, sends the information to an app for storage where it calculates the average of the readings, and allows me to send the info to whomever I want with the push of a big button , all for under $60 (no delivery charge). It even synchs to Apple health. The bad news is that I don’t want to use Apple health. I’ve done enough already.
  8. Be a problem seeker, not a problem solver
  9. Don’t fall prey to the distraction of traction.
  10. Constantly evaluate your underlying business model hypotheses by repeatedly testing them

The bottom line is that all entrepreneurs and new product developers have one and only one job: figure out what the customer wants you to do and give it or sell it to them at a profit. It’s too bad you can’t just push one big button to make that happen. Well, at least they didn’t call it Google Sick.

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