I spoke with a good friend this week on how things were going with product testing of a new care management platform. Like many early stage efforts, the technology has been prototyped and is being actively tested in live-settings for further evaluation and refinement. She works in a large technology prime that typically refers to such projects as being in the ‘dog food’ stage, but this story would be the same for a startup or early stage company.
Health IT innovations inevitably go through multiple rounds of focused testing in order to clearly demonstrate the value to a potential customer. Altogether, my friend’s ‘proof-of-concept’ was well organized and was on-track to be completed on-time. There was, however, more than a bit of anxiety when she mentioned the unveiling of the forthcoming closeout results. The final client presentation at the end of the study would generate many useful metrics, but there was ambiguity around exactly how they would be interpreted or received by the client.
For this case, my friend could have greatly benefited from a proof-of-concept strategy like the one that I weave into all my early stage engagements. In each deployment, a set of success metrics needs to be jointly developed and agreed upon towards the start of the project.
Innovation success isn’t guaranteed, but everyone should know upfront what it might look like when they see it.
I’m fairly familiar with these types of proof-of-concept engagements, as they are necessary to show value to all parties. In an ideal case, the pilot leads to a commercial engagement. Pilots slow down commercialization, but I’ve yet to find one that didn’t yield useful insights given the time spent, if success is clearly defined in the early stages.
On identifying success, here’s what I recommend for all proof-of-concept studies and pilots:
Proof-of-concept studies are expensive but sometimes necessary engagements–especially for early stage health technology products. They are crucial for innovations in demonstrating value and informing refinement.
The notion of buying promising early-stage health IT may be a source of discomfort for health plans and healthcare providers, but there are ways to mitigate risk and maximize benefit from cutting-edge innovation.
My advice to any organization embarking on one of these engagements is to build a process for jointly developing, agreeing upon, and evaluating success metrics. This should be done in an open and transparent fashion with the client, and should begin early in the process.
By: Wil Yu, VP of Business Development