Before starting the Health for America (HFA) at MedStar Health fellowship, I had only met two entrepreneurs—one working to transform the organ procurement industry and the other tackling the management of excess/unused hospital supplies and equipment. At the time of each conversation, I was able to discuss the problem and solution that each entrepreneur was working on, but needed enlightenment on the unique business and financial constraints of working for and/or founding a startup. Through the HFA fellowship and MedStar Health’s strategic alliance with 1776, I have gained a better understanding of how startups function and what a day in the life of an entrepreneur is like.
From MedStar to 1776
Like previous fellows, Renee and I have split our time between working at the MedStar Institute for Innovation and off-site at 1776, the Northeast corridor’s largest network of entrepreneurial incubators with 11 campuses in four states and the District of Columbia. 1776 has facilitated a working partnership between Renee and I, along with many other entrepreneurs who share the workspace. In addition to the collaborative nature of 1776’s open seating arrangement, members have the opportunity to connect via various 1776-sponsored networking and social events.
When I walked into 1776 in September of last year, it was impossible to anticipate the transformative conversations I would have with fellow members, the diverse range of startups and entrepreneurs I would work alongside, and the personal growth I would experience here. With July 20 fast approaching (my last day at 1776 before the fellowship ends on July 31), I wanted to provide readers with an op-ed style post on my favorite lesson learned at 1776. The lesson below has impacted my work with the MedStar Telehealth Innovation Center (MTIC) and my overall understanding of the virtual patient-provider relationship.
Lesson Learned: Not All Virtual Relationships Are The Same
In the startup world, it is very common to have part or all of your team work remotely. This trend holds true for many members of 1776, whose teams span multiple geographic locations. During one of my first Fridays at 1776, I was asked the following question by another member—are remote employees more likely to be open to virtual care than employees who work in a traditional office setting? My first instinct was to respond “Of course! If you are already accustomed to communicating via various technology platforms, it seems natural to be open to other virtual services and modes of communication, even virtual interactions with healthcare providers.” But like a trick question, the answer was not so obvious. Through countless follow-up discussions, my answer evolved as new layers of the issue became apparent:
Every person has a threshold of how much of their life they will place online.
Future patients, even those who work in the tech space, may be reluctant to partake in virtual care because their nine-to-five jobs are already too tech-heavy.
Long-term remote work with coworkers is perceived to be easier than one-off virtual encounters with individuals/business partners, as it takes months to learn a person’s web-manner.
Established patients may be more likely to try virtual visits versus new patients, since established patients already have a trusted relationship with their care provider.
High-quality, reliable technology is key to repeat video encounters/interactions. Several members noted that after one or more failed virtual meetings, they are reluctant to schedule future video-based meetings with said individuals.
Applying Key Takeaways to My HFA Work
Over the past ten months, I have worked with the MTIC team on various telehealth pilots and projects. While each project has engaged different stakeholders and addressed different problem statements, each implementation shares one commonality: it was designed around the patient. The various conversations I’ve had with members of 1776 have been critical in my understanding of how patients may perceive virtual care and the quality of a virtual patient-provider relationship. As I’ve come to learn, it is important to factor in a patient’s non-healthcare-related perceptions of virtual communication or remote work when designing for new telehealth implementations.