When Kimber Lockhart, the chief technology officer at primary care clinic operator One Medical, sits down with young people looking to disrupt the healthcare field, she hears a lot of them making the same mistake.
More often than not, a lot of people come to her wanting to completely overhaul one or more parts of the healthcare system — starting from scratch. For example, one person recently told her they wanted to create a better electronic health record (EHR), the digital version of the paper-based patient charts that doctors once used.
Lockhart was recently featured on Business Insider’s list of the 30 young leaders under 40 transforming healthcare. You can read the full list here.
Doing something like re-creating health records is a tall order for someone who hasn’t had any prior experience in the healthcare field, said Lockhart, 33. EHRs contain medical and treatment histories, past diagnoses and medications, immunization dates, allergies, radiology images, and lab test results. And more than 1,000 vendors currently have their own ways of collecting that information, according to a recent report from Kaiser Health News.
Someone who wants to make a better version, then, would need to have a deep understanding of everything from what motivates an EHR vendor to the constraints that cause a health system to choose one EHR system over another.
“It’s really complicated,” she said.
Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, Lockhart advises people who want to make an impact on US healthcare to start small.
When it comes to electronic health records, for example, Lockhart would suggest that someone focus on improving one aspect of an existing record-keeping system or trying to create an add-on that would help solve for a specific use-case.
“Starting with a slightly smaller scope” can be helpful, Lockhart said.
‘There are no silver bullets and no shortcuts’
Sean Duffy, the 35-year-old CEO and cofounder of diabetes treatment startup Omada Health and another pick for Business Insider’s healthcare transformers list, agreed with Lockhart.
Because the US healthcare system is so complex, Duffy advises newcomers to start humbly, learning how the system works piece-by-piece and developing an understanding of how each player — from patients and providers to consultants and insurers — fits into the whole.
“Healthcare entrepreneurship is the double black diamond,” Duffy told Business Insider. “It’s a very intricate place to build a business.”
So to start, Duffy advised working for an existing healthcare startup or consulting firm and learning how to do one aspect of the business well. Once someone has that knowledge under their belt, they’ll have a clearer idea of what aspect of the healthcare system they want to improve. That’s a better approach than simply looking to reform American healthcare altogether, Duffy said.
“It’s one of those things where it’s better to go in with a running familiarity of how the bits and pieces tie together. If you don’t have empathy for all the stakeholders, it’s materially harder to form a business,” he said.
In healthcare, “there are no silver bullets and no shortcuts,” Duffy added.