Monday, August 11, 2014

Triangle Health Startup Weekend & The DreamCrusher™

Unlike this T-shirt, the weekend didn't flatline...
This past weekend I had the opportunity to serve as a coach and panelist for the first ever health-related Startup Weekend here in Durham, NC. Held in the historic American Underground at Main St., it was 54 hours of excitement about mHealth, telemedicine, medical devices and more. We heard pitches about EHR integration (one of my favorite topics!), an improved laryngoscope, deriving meaning from unstructured data, a pet treatment service, and an alternative medicine treatment for yeast infections, among others.  This event united participants from numerous universities (both local - Duke, NCSU, UNC - and out of state, such as Clemson) as well as many local startups, established enterprises, law firms and hospitals. The mood was positive, collaborative, and energizing.

Here are some of my lessons learned or reinforced:

Apparently I'm a DreamCrusher.

This was not intentional, of course, but it doesn't help anyone to beat around the bush. For example, the first group I met with (whose idea received the most votes in the Friday evening selection round) proposed a solution to standardize electronic health records nationwide. Obviously, this is a fantastic idea, and born out of the frustration many of them experienced firsthand in their own care (i.e., the inability of their physician to see their medical records from the hospital down the street). They asked my thoughts, and 10 minutes later, after giving them a 30,000-ft view of the current state of federal mandates (i.e., Meaningful Use) and consumer initiatives (i.e. HealthKit and GoogleFit), they immediately saw the need to pivot from their general idea of standardization to a specific one related to consumer health. I provided a couple suggestions to get them started, and they quickly refocused to start dreaming up their next big idea. Making informed strategic decisions is critical in healthcare, which leads me to the second lesson:

Healthcare is a black box to those outside the field.

As someone in the healthcare profession - and informatics in particular - it's easy to take for granted how much we have to know to do our jobs. While there were many healthcare experts in attendance this weekend, there were also many who saw this as a great opportunity to kickstart a career in healthcare innovation. For the latter, coming up with what seems to be a novel idea only to learn twenty reasons it wouldn't work in our current healthcare environment is one of the best ways to become initiated. To understand healthcare is to understand limitations and how to work with them or around them. These groups stayed positive in the face of nearly constant Dream Crushing!

Involve the content experts.

There were many MDs coaches in attendance this weekend, representing primary care, hospital medicine, psychiatry, emergency medicine, and cardiology. One particular idea involved a novel treatment for yeast infections. There was preliminary in vitro data demonstrating efficacy of the treatment, but when presented to the panel of expert providers, several red flags became apparent. None of these were deal-breakers, but this highlighted the need for a well-done clinical trial to demonstrate both efficacy of this treatment as well as possible adverse outcomes. The sooner an idea can be reviewed by someone with domain expertise, the sooner any glaring omissions can be addressed and novel products such as this can get to market.

Surround yourself with people who think differently.

I heard many perspectives this weekend and learned a lot from each. The teams varied in size from one person to a dozen. It was fascinating to see the medical student hashing out an idea with an MBA or the security expert debating the need for legal review with the engineer. The more diverse the group and the more opinions offered, the more robust the ideas became. It's easier and more comfortable to surround ourselves with those who think just like we do, but that's also the fastest way to fail. Multidisciplinary collaboration yields success.

I hope that at the end of the weekend everyone felt that they either had an idea that was worth their time or that the knowledge gained was worth the 54 hours of hard work, excitement, and ... yes ... Dream Crushing.

Congratulations to the winners of the various categories!

  • Best business model: Waggin Aid
  • Best execution: Aura (alternative treatment for yeast infections)
  • Best customer validation: HeartThrob Cardio
  • Best overall: Aura (alternative treatment for yeast infections)

Finally, thanks to all the organizers for making this a reality. Let the dreaming continue!

- Ricky "DreamCrusher" Bloomfield

Listening to the mid-day Saturday status updates.

1 comment:

  1. Ricky, thanks for the write up and your help. It was a great weekend. However, I don't think you can trademark DreamCrusher as my wife put a trademark on that years ago ;)


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