Is Healthcare Overhead Holding Back New #DigitalHealth Solutions?

Earlier this year I wrote an article that questioned whether the Fitbit was really a digital health solution. I essentially came to the conclusion that Fitbit’s health data wasn’t clinically relevant and so that’s why we didn’t see it really impacting healthcare as we know it.

While Fitbit’s data may not be clinically relevant, Fitbit has still gone on to be an extremely successful wearable technology solution for consumers. For some reason we enjoy tracking our steps whether it really improves our health or not. Of course, maybe they’re also riding our own misconception that tracking steps improves health. Regardless, they’ve been extremely successful and haven’t had to prove that they actually do anything to move the needle in healthcare.

I wonder if this is the model that we’ll see happen most with digital health solutions. Instead of trying to actually take part in the ruthless, brutal, and complex healthcare infrastructure, I expect we’ll see most digital health solutions work on the outside.

Think about the overhead that comes with becoming FDA cleared or the overhead that comes with proving to a hospital that your solution really does improve patients’ health. That’s a lot of work compared with just creating the illusion of health and selling it directly to consumers. Maybe the illusion will play out as reality or maybe it will not. From a company’s point of view, all you have to do is keep the illusion in play and you can be successful.

No doubt this later strategy appeals to the startup culture that’s been created in the US. There’s so little that’s “lean startup” of MVP (minimum viable product) in healthcare. Most people in healthcare are afraid of anything that’s not mature. Healthcare regulations certainly discriminate against experimentation and show bias to mature technologies.

The only case that really can be made to entrepreneurs who want to pursue the harder path of proving their technologies is that once they’ve proved it they have a great defense against competitors who haven’t gone to that effort. That’s a powerful incentive, but not one that most will appreciated when starting a digital health startup company.

My gut tells me that the complexities of healthcare are holding many innovations from happening in healthcare. That’s unfortunate.

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference,, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.


  • “Most people in healthcare are afraid of anything that’s not mature.”

    So John, what I read from your post is that digital health entrepreneurs need to get off the sidelines, go to the nth degree in proving the value of their technology product(s) and mature quickly. Or they must fake maturity by keeping an illusion of maturity constantly in play. I hear that today’s health IT startups need to get off the perimeter, differentiate themselves discretely and not shy away from the “ruthless, brutal, and complex healthcare infrastructure.”

  • I’d suggest the first strategy and not the 2nd. Although, every company is creating an illusion to some degree. The 3rd strategy that you didn’t suggest is healthcare organizations creating a system for integrating the less proven, but promising technology.

  • What I would add to this is that the healthcare delivery organizations that need to adopt these technologies are often not conducive to adopting something new-new, let alone half-baked. When organizational structure and leadership are not strong suits of a potential customer for a disrupting technology you are better off walking away from that customer.

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