A Healthcare CEO’s Letter To His Old Silicon Valley Self

Ken Comee, CEO of healthcare tech firm, CareCloud
Ken Comée, CEO of healthcare tech firm, CareCloud

I was recently asked what advice I’d give my younger self with regards to making the move into healthcare after decades in Silicon Valley. That’s a great question and especially timely as enterprise and consumer tech are making their way into the industry—along with lifelong tech execs like me. It made me think about where I am now, what I know now and what I wish I knew when I first made the leap to leap into [what was then] a young healthcare company.

I’ve definitely learned a lot of lessons big and small since that first day as CEO of CareCloud three years ago. Here’s my advice to my old self, along with some insights on the market that I think other leaders new to this space would appreciate.

Remember that it’s all about the patient

Whatever healthcare product or service you have in your development plan, look at every opportunity through the lens of how it will help customer’s relationship with the patient, whoever the buyer. Patients have more of a voice in the choices around their healthcare than ever before and they are pushing the market to meet them where they are, when and how they prefer. So, anything that allows the physician to stay focused on the patient goes a long way.

“Working in healthcare isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s probably the most fragmented, complicated sectors you can find.”

As one of our medical group clients recently said to me, “I have five customers: the health plan, the government, the malpractice lawyer, the accountant and the patient. I need you to take care of the first four so that I can focus on the patient.”

Slow down to speed up

This market is moving fast due to a perfect storm of consumerism, value-based care models, and cloud tech. In its early days, CareCloud’s growth kept a similar pace until it stalled under the weight of too much too fast. When I came on board as CEO, it really was about getting back to the basics, slowing things down and recognizing that not all growth is good growth. That’s what we did for my first two years and now, in year three, our platform and services are leading the sector and the market is responding. My advice is to focus on the fundamentals of the business, developing great products — not just the product itself today, but the products you need to be developing for the next several years based on where the market is going.

Appreciate where healthcare organizations are on the technology adoption curve

Cloud technology has transformed other industries and we’re seeing more healthcare organizations investigate the cloud to become more efficient, reduce costs and practice medicine at the highest possible level.  Unfortunately, the reality is that more providers than you would ever imagine are working in a virtual “rust belt” and running their practices with technology that’s ten years old or older. Some are still using paper. Understand that any analytical tool, medical device, consumer engagement service, etc. needs to “plug into” something at the primary point of care, which usually isn’t a high-tech hospital. Aside from the dollar cost to a practice, be sure you’ve thought through ease of data integration and migration as well as the change management requirements involving each of the practice’s stakeholders. What sounds like a no-brainer may be a non-starter.

Focus on experience

As tech people, we can easily get caught up in the excitement of what we’ve built and how we’ve built it. In talking with healthcare providers, what I’ve come to realize is that the product is actually secondary to the experience that they are buying. This isn’t all that surprising if you think about what physicians and patients go through as they manage a medical issue. Or the workflow of every staff person using your product. The experience carries through to how your sales and account teams, your finance staff and you engage with your customers. Our health is among the most deeply personal aspects of our lives. There is a profoundly higher level of importance and trust that is expected of everything you do when you work for a healthcare company. Make sure you consider how those values and beliefs are reflected in the experience you provide to your customers. This doesn’t just go for healthcare, but any people-first business.

Be vigilant about the health of your company’s culture

Anyone in tech knows that it is a very competitive market for talent. This is especially true in enterprise healthcare tech because we have to compete with B-to-C companies getting into the market. Outside of the customary best practices, here are three things I believe have made the most difference:

1) Be willing to take advantage of talent wherever they are—tech and healthcare domain expertise combined in one candidate is not easy to find.

2) Hire as much for diversity of culture, experience and ideas as you do for skills—you’ll need that to deliver the product and experience that is necessary to be successful in this complex and changing environment.

3) Actively facilitate a culture of entrepreneurship within the company and create an environment for employees to flourish as innovators who want to help transform healthcare.

Working in healthcare isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s probably the most fragmented, complicated sectors you can find. It’s also on the cusp of an exciting new era thanks, in part, to emerging technologies.

I know that I feel like I am now part of something much bigger than myself and I’d encourage any tech leader looking to do the same to make the move to healthcare—you’ll get the challenge and opportunity of your career!

Read more: Healthcare: Balancing Quality With Cost

Ken Comée is the CEO of CareCloud. Comée was formerly the CEO of PowerReviews, the world’s largest social commerce network, which powers customer conversations on over 5,500 websites including Staples, REI and Toys“R”Us. Previously, Mr. Comée held executive positions at CollabNet, a software development pioneer in the cloud, and at product lifecycle leader PTC. He has also held several various high-level management positions at Amdahl/Fujitsu in Europe and the U.S. Mr. Comée is a graduate of Santa Clara University and received an MBA from the London Business School.