Defining the Problem

When you are a startup you live and breathe your product/service. This can make it difficult sometimes when it comes to actually selling your innovation to healthcare providers. Your company is like your child, so it can be frustrating when all the sudden you have to try to prove its worth. You are 100% devoted, but how can you convince others to also buy in?

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In this four-week series, Healthcare Hacks, we will be discussing tips regarding how to define the problem/need, how to define value propositions, how to actually get in the door of healthcare providers, and how to introduce your product/service to a new audience. While we cannot provide a definitive guide to making a sale, as certain tactics work better than others depending on where and to whom you are selling, we believe this series will help shed light on some of the general best practices.

So without further ado, let’s dive into the first step of selling your innovation – actually defining a problem/need.


One of the largest problems in the digital health market is that many innovations do not address current issues that healthcare providers are facing. At Junto, we like to call this the supply-push flow of technology. This has created a huge bulge in the market with an excess of innovation, but lack of solutions.

To be able to sell your innovation to healthcare providers you need to focus on developing solutions to problems that make your target customer’s top ten lists for the next 6-12 months. This could be a hospital’s CEO or an insurance company’s CFO, whomever they are you need to place yourself in their mindset and narrow in on their largest problems. This is what you should then be developing solutions for. It is also always good practice to make sure that you are focusing on a problem that affects all, if not most, individuals in your target customer’s category. This makes it easy for you to later scale-up and capture largest parts of the market.

For a minute let’s use hospitals as an example. Hospitals are always incredibly strapped for resources, whether that is financial, personnel, time, IT, or staff, and are constantly putting out fire left and right while hoping to eke out a narrow margin to live to see another day. While there are infinite problems to be fixed, only a few new projects are implemented by hospitals each year so it is important to focus on addressing the most acute pain points. Given the regulatory environment of healthcare, new and urgent challenges frequently pop up that have to be addressed quickly (think ICD-10 conversions and readmission rates) and these can sideline all but the most important projects and solutions.

As a founder, you must find your target constituents and make sure that you are working on a solution that will solve a key problem that keeps them up at night. This could be the CFO and finance team’s worry about payment reforms or CMO and physicians concern regarding admission practices. The good news is that you do not need to be a mind reader to figure out their concerns. If you spend time talking to the right people, these top issues will be easy to see on the surface and you will soon see patterns across organizations.

It is important to also remember that given the strong influence that regulation has in driving the direction of the healthcare industry, once change happens and a provider such as a hospital needs a solution to meet it, the whole industry moves quickly. Many executives are looking to solve the problems that will threaten their business in the next 6-12 months if left unchecked. There are some though that will be looking to address the long-term existential challenges that are vital to remaining competitive in the long-term.

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So, when you are thinking about your product/services design ask yourself two questions.

  1. Is this a top priority in the next 6-12 months for my target customer?

  2. Are my target customers in the position to be purchasing a solution to this problem or is there a more immediate need?

This will help you avoid the common pitfall of focusing on problems that are important, but not critical and thus have the potential to be placed on the back burner. When you are developing your solution also remember not to expect that you can easily come in and change the way an organization does things. You may have a better solution, but this doesn’t mean that they necessarily can, or want to, change. Taking all of this into account will increase your chance of having a product/service that will easily appeal to healthcare providers. Having an appealing innovation is the first step in convincing providers of the worth of your startup.


Next Wednesday we will be looking at how to define value proposition. Follow us on LinkedIn or Twitter so you do not miss out on the next part of the Healthcare Hacks series!