Running a health tech startup is hard work but can be highly rewarding – not to mention a lot of fun.
This article is based on my experience of co-founding DocTap GP Clinic, a provider of affordable, short notice GP appointments to people in London.
We certainly didn’t get everything right the first time, but for the sake of brevity, I shall only present my current thoughts on each topic.
What are the 7 important lessons I’ve learned from running a health-tech startup with co-founder Alex Hamilton:
Lesson 1 – Patient safety must come above all else
This is our overriding concern in everything from doctor recruitment and training to policies and procedures. It is also the reason that we have favoured face-to-face appointments with a GP rather than on-line consultations.
Lesson 2 – Be Fanatical about patient experience
Just being safe is no longer sufficient. In today’s competitive climate we’re constantly looking to surpass our patients’ expectations. When mistakes are made we take full responsibility for them and ensure that we learn and improve as a result.
We request honest feedback from all patients and make it easy for them to provide it.
We then publish every single review – The fear of a negative review keeps us all on our toes.
Lesson 3 – Honesty and Integrity
Gone are the days when an organisation could closely choreograph its public image. We see from the almost daily flow of embarrassing corporate leaks that the truth will eventually come out, however hard you try to conceal it.
I advise you to agree on and write down your core organisational values and use these to guide all your decision making – DocTap’s values are trust, convenience & reliability, value for money and putting patients first.
Lesson 4 – Be Creative with Marketing
It is getting harder and harder to be noticed above the crowd. Traditional marketing channels such as TV, radio, print and outdoor are often beyond the budget of a startup.
In an effort to raise awareness of DocTap beyond those currently requiring a GP appointment, we have recently launched a blog written by DocTap GP’s on health and well-being topics. The objective is to build a loyal base of readers.
Lesson 5 – Find your niche but be prepared to seize new opportunities
It is very tempting for any business to try and be all things to all people. However, I believe this is a dangerous trap to fall into for startups where resources are limited and there is so much work to do just getting off the ground.
Despite being a GP service, DocTap has had requests to provide work medicals, physio appointments, prescription delivery services, home visits and even act as a GP locum agency.
Whilst all these are perfectly viable businesses in their own right, we have elected to focus our energies on getting the GP service right before branching out into other areas.
Having said that, it is wise to keep your eyes open for an opportunity that might move your business in a different direction. DocTap was originally envisaged as a top-up service for people who could not get to see their NHS GP.
However, we found many people asking for us to be their regular GP. This involved making several changes to our processes but is now a major part of our business.
Lesson 6 – You are only as good as your team
As someone who has started a business both on my own (a hotel business) and with someone else – DocTap – I would strongly advise starting out with one or two other co-founders.
Having someone else to bounce ideas around with is invaluable. And the emotional support of a co-founder is a real help during the inevitable late nights.
It helps to have a wide range of skills and personalities within your team. You might like working with someone who thinks just like you, but you’ll do better if you have a broad mix of people.
Working for a startup can be an inspirational and exciting experience for your staff.
When recruiting I place more emphasis on trust, enthusiasm and ‘getting’ our core values than on experience or a CV.
Lesson 7 – Have a financial plan
The finances of all businesses are different. Some need to make money straight away.
Others are looking to grow a brand or platform for the future, so growth in users is the primary objective at launch.
Either way, it is essential that you understand how your business will survive and grow in the short, medium and long-term.
With any startup, cash is king so you need a plan to raise any necessary capital to allow you to fulfill your ambitions.