For Boston University aspiring entrepreneurs interested in healthcare companies, it doesn’t have to be inconceivable to make that leap into the business world.
“The Princess Bride” movie. In a webinar on Wednesday hosted by the Boston University’s Institute for Health Systems Innovation and Policy, venture capitalist Lisa Suennen used the film as an allegory to explain healthcare entrepreneurship. ILLUSTRATION BY HANNAH YOSHINAGA / FREE DAILY PRESS STAFF
The BU Health System Innovation and Policy Institute hosted a virtual event on Wednesday entitled “Princess Bride’s Guide to Healthcare Entrepreneurship”.
Venture capitalist Lisa Suennen, director of digital and technology at Manatt, Phelps and Phillips – a Los Angeles law firm – used an assignable metaphor to discuss how to successfully start healthcare companies.
Suennen, who has been a leader in risk initiatives for over 20 years, used the 1987 classic film “The Princess Bride” as an allegory to understand the field of healthcare entrepreneurship.
“In the film, they are constantly inventing … small technologies or finding cool things to avoid trouble,” said Suennen at the event. “In the corporate world, people are constantly inventing new technology, new products, new devices, new this, new that.”
The event was the first installment in IHSIP’s 2021 Nexus series, which includes on-campus collaboration and discussion of healthcare developments.
Anand Devaiah, Director of Biomedicine and Health Technology Development and Transfer Domain at IHSIP, introduced the audience to the event.
Devaiah, who has known Suennen for 15 years, said during the interview that her work, which exists “at the intersection of innovation, healthcare and technology”, has only made her better informed.
In the lecture, Suennen explained how everyone has their own idea of success and their individual purpose. When creating a health product for venture capitalists, it is important to realize that their purpose is financial success.
“Entrepreneurs also have an act, their act is to do whatever it takes to make their idea a success, and success is really broad,” said Suennen at the event. “From a venture capitalist’s point of view, their act is pretty simple, it’s almost always the same. It makes a lot of money. “
In addition, product developers have to ask questions that their creation could solve and whether they are needed in the market, said Suennen. She said in academia that keeping the problem at the center of your focus is often lost.
“Think about the problem first,” said Suennen. “What are you trying to solve and what do users actually want and need? This is the first place most companies openly collapse. “
She added that the local health products won’t go far without thinking about the various customers along the way.
“If you’re developing a diabetes treatment app, the end user is likely the patient,” said Suennen, “but the provider, doctor, nurse and diabetes advisor are the people who need to be comfortable with it. ”
Future entrepreneurs should be adaptable in developing their product and always think about the ultimate goal of achieving their own “definition of success,” she said.
“You always have to honestly assess with yourself how things are going and what you have to change in order to get to where you have to go,” said Suennen. “The trick is to have the confidence to recognize that it is okay to change.”
While part of the process is paying attention to user needs, Suennen says it’s also important to be aware of changing trends and laws when developing specific health products.
For example, when COVID-19 hit, telehealth experienced a big and rapid boom. Suennen said she thinks online industry resources and communications could “persist” in a post-pandemic world. Being up to date on such trends is a sign of a good entrepreneur.
“There was suddenly a lot of recognition, literally overnight, especially from health systems,” said Suennen, “that this whole thing with the digital slash remote control could be of use.”
Sean Cahill, Associate Professor of Health Law, Policy and Management at the BU’s School of Public Health, gave the perspective of clients in the healthcare sector, particularly with the rise of telemedicine.
“Another trend we’ve seen over the past year is a very rapid shift to telemedicine and telehealth,” said Cahill in an interview, “which was made necessary by the social shutdown we all experienced in mid-March.”
As director of health research at the Fenway Institute – Fenway Health’s research and education center that primarily serves LGBTQ communities – Cahill said the group switched to telemedicine within a week of the shutdown.
Telehealth services rose 154 percent in the last week of March 2020 – shortly after many states closed – from the same point in time in 2019, according to an October CDC report. According to the report, many of these visits in late March were related to COVID-19 matters.
“This marked shift in exercise patterns has implications for immediate response and long-term health of the population,” the report said. “Continued changes in telemedicine policy and regulatory removals could improve access to acute, chronic, primary and special care during and after the pandemic.”
For those interested in delving into telemedicine and all areas of the field, Suennen says it is important for entrepreneurs to remember that they are responsible, even though they should accept feedback from investors.
“You really want to be one step ahead of your investors because that is your job,” said Suennen at the event. “Your job is to be successful by giving you money and other things, support, help, advice, introductions, best practices, experience, but it’s not your job to run your business.”