Today I had the chance to talk with Dr. Adam Sharp, CMO of par8o. While I’d followed at a very high level Dr. Sharp and Dr. Daniel Palestrant’s move from Founding Sermo to the launch of par8o, this was the first time I’d had a chance to really learn what they were doing in their new venture. I’d say that par8o’s core product now is managing the referral process, but they’ve built referral management on a platform that could facilitate all sorts of communication and data sharing across many parts of healthcare.

I love the way they’re approaching healthcare IT because I’ve long believed that many healthcare IT companies are trying to bite off more than they can chew. Many healthcare IT companies have really big visions of how they’re going to solve healthcare’s problems (of which there are many). They raise a bunch of money to go after those problems and then they never really solve anything. In most cases, the healthcare establishment kicks against such massive changes and so it makes it almost impossible for a health IT company to sell such a massive solution.

One reality of life is that we all hate change. This is true even when we know that change is the right thing to do. So, it shouldn’t be any wonder when a healthcare IT company comes in and wants to massively change what we’re doing that they find resistance. I consider that a failed strategy that I’ve seen far too many healthcare IT startup companies employ.

What I heard from par8o is that they’ve taken the opposite approach. They’re focused on a small change that can provide value to a healthcare organization. In this case it’s referral management. When you hear what they’re doing to make the round trip referral and response process electronic, you ask yourself why we haven’t been using technology to do this forever.

I’ve seen over and over again in healthcare IT that these small, simple and almost obvious solutions often make the biggest impact. They make a big impact because healthcare organizations actually adopt them. Dr. Sharp told me that even the small changes they’re introducing often meet resistance from their users. They have to invest a lot of time and effort to overcome that resistance. If even small changes are resisted, you can imagine why massive changes to an organization’s process are flat out refused.

What’s most interesting about this approach is that by successfully implementing these small changes, it opens the door for a company to eventually help a healthcare organization make much larger changes. I’ve often asked healthcare IT companies, what’s your gateway drug? (ie. What feature of your product do they really want to buy that gets them started with you?). Once you get them hooked on a specific feature, then you have the relationship and trust built to be able to offer broader changes.

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