Dr. Rafael Grossman, the world’s first surgeon to use Google Glass, shares his thoughts on the role of healthcare startups and the lessons to be learned from Theranos.
Read below his Interview with us:
As the first surgeon to use Google Glass to broadcast a live operation, Dr. Rafael Grossman has never been shy about pioneering new ways for technology to transform the healthcare industry.
At GITEX Technology Week Dr. Grossman will be sharing his memories of what it was like to push medical boundaries, as well as outlining his thoughts on how tech startups can transform the healthcare industry in the years to come.
Before that though we had the chance to sit down with Dr. Grossman to talk about his history with a number of tech startups as well as the lessons that can be learned from Theranos and other healthcare tech pioneers:
What has been your experience of working with tech startups in the healthcare industry?
I’m always very excited about the startup eco-system, because it’s these startups who are the ones really making change happen.
I’ve been lucky enough to work with tech startups since very early on in my medical career, ever since I first went to the Exponential Medicine conference in Silicon Valley as a medical student. There I met lots of people who were building startups, or who were thinking about building startups in healthcare.
Since then I’ve tried to be involved in helping a number of startups by being an advisor or consultant for many startup companies; and I have been lucky enough to travel around a number of different startup ecosystems and see for myself how different they are, like in the Middle East, in Europe, Latin America or the US.
It’s clear that there are some really incredible ideas out there, and while I’m not exactly an expert on the business side of things, I do have the healthcare expertise as well as the futuristic mind set to view these innovations not just as a clinician but also as a fan of technology.
How important a role do you feel startups play in pushing advances in medicine?
Startups are becoming very important as modern medicine becomes more and more based on technological advances.
For example you look at something like Oculus Rift, which was started by a kid in his garage and two years later was being sold to Facebook for billions of dollars, and then you see how tech like oculus can then be applied to the medical profession. For example, in new and interesting ways we deliver psychiatric care, or the way we treat post-traumatic stress disorder. That’s just one example of many of the way that startups are changing medicine.
Are there any particular dangers for startups in healthcare? For example are there any particular lessons startups can take from the recent problems faced by Theranos?
In many ways I think the challenges facing healthcare startups are not that different than the challenges faced by any new company in any industry.
In the particular case of Theranos, as a trauma surgeon I was very excited about having the ability to use a very small amount of blood to very quickly tell you a lot of information on the composition of a patient’s blood. It felt like a magic bullet in many ways.
In fact I contacted Theranos years ago to see how we could use their products, as it seemed we could really save lives with their ideas. Then of course, things started happening and changing and we’ve ended up with what seems to be the final chapter for Theranos. Hopefully that is not the case though, and the concept will evolve to become a real medical tool.
In any case, to succeed in this market you have to not just have a bright idea, but also be a good businessperson, with the right advisors, both medical advisers but also legal advisers, to guide the development of your products and to help you become a real success. A success not just on the business side of things, but also on the medical side. You really want to have a product that helps patients, because at the end of the day, we’re all here because of patients. It’s all about how we care for patients, and how we teach others to care for patients.
The startup space is a difficult world, but if you have the right advisors and you’re at the right place at the right time, magic can happen.
What then is the one piece of advice you would give to a startup looking to break in to the medical industry?
Well, while I myself am an advisor and a consultant, I want to reiterate that I’m a full time clinician; I’m not a business person. But I always try to make extra time to work on my passion as a healthcare futurist.
In that way, the best advice I can give to young startups is to get good advice. Unless you are a clinician, unless you are deeply involved in medicine and you practiced and know the good and the bad of medicine, unless you really have specific experience then it is hard to create a healthcare solution.
I think that in healthcare, it’s vital for you to have a good advisor, particularly on the medical side, because without that you might be creating a product that is a great business case on paper, but at the end of day if it doesn’t solve a specific problem in medicine, then it won’t be successful.
I think that having the right team also helps create success, and I think in a medical startup having the right experience on your team is vital. You really need to invest in that, as you need to understand the problems you will be facing, and have someone who is able to guide you through the potential solutions.
This is why I’m looking forward to GITEX to come and meet with these startups and share ideas and innovations. It’s my goal to try and ignite peoples’ passion, and maybe become a resource for people to change the way we care for people and the way we teach people in medicine.