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Words of wisdom from a digihealth entrepreneur


Dominic Wood, founder and CEO of www.EpicHealth.io, shares his experience of launching a digital health business in the medtech space

Making the first step to set up your very own digital health business can feel quite intimidating. The market is saturated with ideas from different companies that claim they’ve invented the next great thing in medical science or that their new piece of tech will heal certain ailments. Among all this hullabaloo, it can be hard to ensure your voice is heard.

It’s crucial that you have your unique selling point clear in your mind from the very beginning. Without this to fall back on, you’re sure to fail from the start. If you’re not confident in having a conversation about your digital health business, about what it does and where you see it heading, then you need to go back to the drawing board. You need to ensure that your idea is solid and that you can answer any questions the public may have about it before pitching it in the ‘dragons den. No sector scrutinises you more than the health technology one.

I’ve learnt all this on the ground. Launching our non-invasive smartphone glucose monitoring app in 2014 was a world first. Now we’re holding the largest clinical trials for diabetes technology, so the learning process goes on.

Don’t be a cheater

A common mistake in the medical market is that many refuse or fight against regulation. Regulations in the health industry are extensive, and for good reason. These brand new apps and pieces of tech are making huge medical claims, so it’s important that guidelines and rules are set out so companies can’t get away with lying to their users. This long list of regulations has resulted in companies giving up or worse, being spooked away from creating their health business in the first place.

This truly is a shame; we could be missing out on fantastic ideas simply because the regulations of this amazing industry have put so many people off from even exploring their venture properly. It’s important that those looking to pursue an idea in the health sector embrace the regulations put in place.

It’s also a rookie mistake to think you’re clever enough to work around these concrete regulations. Although you may have found a solution for the short-term, in the long-term this ‘smart Alec’ way of thinking could cost you money and time. At the end of the day, the best thing to do is to follow the processes put in place. This is the easiest avenue and it will only make your company look good in such a competitive market.

Partner with the big boys

In a sea of whales, how can such a tiny fish be seen? Well if you have a noteworthy idea – which everyone entering the sector expecting to succeed should – you’ll be less of a tiny fish and more a fully-grown blue whale. A great idea with scientific backing is sure to attract interest, even if you have only just started out and you’re currently a team of two. Your team size will mean nothing to potential partners, they’ll just want to know more about your idea, how it works, if it’s feasible and whether they can be part of it.

It’s a rookie mistake to think that you can make it in the sector alone. Although it’s possible to do this, it’ll take you far longer than it should, take up more of your resources and you won’t be able to expand your idea as much as you may wish. If you can, and they are sniffing around, definitely consider partnering up with healthcare, technology or pharma giants, as this decision is sure to give you that huge boost in the sector that your idea truly deserves.

These things take time

Health companies make big claims and these claims have to be legit, reliable and explainable. You need to be able to explain your developments and to fully understand the science behind your idea. In order to do this successfully, time must be taken. There’s absolutely no point in rushing your development and your product as, not only will it look sloppy, it will mean you’ve probably not followed regulations and you may have glaring errors that other professionals in the industry will scoff at. Late and right always beats early and wrong.

How medical device CEOs can navigate digital health disruption

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Many companies that start out in the sector don’t realise that building a business in this industry is a slow, arduous process. Regulatory cycles can take years, so it’s vital that you plan for the long-term and that you have enough runway for your idea to fully take off. Don’t expect your company to be a fully-fledged, recognised business within a couple of months.

Expand your network

Networking is key in most sectors, but it’s arguably even more crucial in the health sector. Many people, including myself, have come into the sector without decades of experience, which can be incredibly daunting. It’s important for those who lack health connections within the industry to attend events (although do not feel pressured to go to every health event – this will only take up too much of your time). The health and tech industry is a very collaborative one; your idea could be developed into something even greater with the help of some of the people you meet at events across the globe.

The industry is also very mentor-driven. Don’t pass up the opportunity to speak to a well-versed, experienced doctor or pharmaceutical professional if it arises. Even if you’re going into this venture with years of health experience, there’s no way to know everything there is to know about the sector. Keep an open mind and be prepared to take advice from those more experienced than you.

Who benefits?

At the end of the day, you’re creating something for people. Whether it’s something for diabetes or heart issues, it’s of great importance that whatever you create is properly user friendly. Although you’re trying to impress big players in the pharmaceutical, tech and health industry, you must never forget those you’re ultimately serving. Ensure you always have your target market in mind with every change and development you make.

The big trick for those who are struggling to understand what this might mean is to be medically sound and still be engaging for even the most passive user. Make that your measure.



About the author

Journalist and editor Kathryn Reilly has worked in consumer, contract and medical writing for more than 20 years.

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