10 commandments of tech

The Silicon Valley lexicon is full of buzzwords and catchphrases. I sat down with leading technologists from some of the top tech, healthcare and life sciences companies to explore 10 of the most well-known Silicon Valley-isms, explore the unique challenges they present in healthcare, and offer concrete recommendations to help you tackle these 10 "commandments" of tech.

1. The drive to “Fail Fast”

Freely experimenting and learning while working towards your goal can run the risk of overlooking end-user safety (a big no-no in biopharma).

Instead, experimentation that considers both functionality and safety is paramount. Diana McKenzie, former CIO of Amgen and Workday, underscores the importance of including thoughtful experiment design; the use of lean, iterative processes; and clear measurable outcomes—all of which she says “enable the rapid and early identification, elimination or refinement of clinical candidates that qualify to advance to subsequent phases of development.”

2. The push to “Get to an MVPstat

In a regulation-heavy environment where submission processes can take months, quickly obtaining a minimally viable product (MVP) is unrealistic.

Instead of getting to an MVP early in the game, product development could (and should) incorporate early and frequent feedback through controlled, repetitive end-user formative settings. But as McKenzie points out, by “applying similar MVP principles to the development of regulated digital products, biopharma companies can more effectively meet patient and stakeholders’ expectations and compete as digital leaders in healthcare.”

3. The glorification of “the Hustle”

The Silicon Valley hustle culture can be a poor match for the process-oriented biopharma industry that recognizes the importance of the means to reach a goal as much as the goal itself.

That being said, harnessing the same spirit of entrepreneurship found at the core of the “hustle” mentality can be a benefit to biopharma, especially when it comes to the groups driving digital across the enterprise. Executives who lead digital initiatives should invest in protecting its team from the more traditional, slow-moving biopharma culture.

4. The call to “Disrupt”

Being a disruptor in an interconnected healthcare ecosystem can have a domino effect of disastrous results. As BrightInsight CTO and Co-Founder Ferry Tamtoro warns, "‘Disrupting’ without understanding the full implications will likely result in failure.”

Because of the tightly coupled players from pharma, medtech, health systems, payers, government and many others, understanding the landscape and its complex relationship with these players is vital for success.

Bradley Strock, former CIO of PayPal, notes that disruption can happen even in highly regulated environments, albeit with guardrails and a keen understanding of the impacts. “As a thought experiment, think about ‘how could we do that while still following the rules,’ instead of ‘we can’t do that.’”

5. The tendency to “Bootstrap It”

Learning to increase efficiencies and create lean processes is a core business imperative—but not when it means cutting corners (and regulations) in a healthcare context.

The key, as Tamtoro says, is “to truly understand the reason behind the regulations so that processes are designed to achieve this intent instead of feeling like the process is a burden.”

The result? Achieving objectives with fewer resources. 

6. The reliance on the “Network Effect”

While some services or goods become more valuable as more people use them, this rise in popularity doesn’t necessarily impact the performance (or value) of a healthcare product.

Tamtoro does note, however, that healthcare can still benefit from network effects, albeit with one special consideration. “Healthcare products need to be clinically validated...and there needs to be monitoring to ensure the product doesn't steer away from its intended use.” In other words, a rise in use can enhance product value but as always, safety comes first.

Strock adds, “Network value tends to be associated with the creation of platforms that support multiple products. Think about what kinds of platforms might support a network effect across patients, providers, or others.”

7. The need to “Pivot”

Large organizations with rigid processes don’t often have the luxury of agility, making it a challenge to pivot as new data emerges.

All is not lost for biopharma and medtech companies, however. Tamtoro shares that “working with a platform player that provides flexibility and agility allows you to pivot quickly based on learnings.”

Spoiler alert: BrightInsight can be that platform partner to enable you to accelerate digital health innovation in a compliant manner. 

8. The hunger for “Freemium”

While startups often try to make money by adding as many people possible to the top of a funnel hoping some of them convert into paid users, healthcare must employ more intentionality.

Biopharma can still play off the “Freemium” concept by broadening marketing initiatives and rolling out products to get in front of potential new customers. The key? Cast a wider, yet selective net that tries to reach more relevant users.

9. The infatuation with “Gamification”

Applying game-design elements and principles in your digital health use cases doesn’t always make sense. Digital health solutions for elderly patients with chronic diseases, for instance, may see more engagement with a simple UX.

But, for younger patient populations, there is a big opportunity to successfully leverage people’s natural desires for socializing, mastery, competition, and achievement to improve and encourage therapy adherence.

10. The pride in being “Scrappy”

While lean, understaffed tech startups are a source of pride in Silicon Valley, in the world of healthcare, it’s a red flag for poorly managed resources and potential liability.

There is one redeeming element, however. This scrappy attitude comes with the drive to find resourceful and creative approaches. When efficiencies are found and implemented in healthcare, it improves quality of services and saves everyone time.

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