Entrepreneurship in Healthcare IT and Services - Harvard Business School MBA Program

Entrepreneurship in Healthcare IT and Services

Course Number 1666

Senior Lecturer Robert Higgins
Spring; Q3; 1.5 credits
14 Sessions

Career Focus

This course is intended for students who have a career interest in leading or investing in companies in the health care sector, and are interested in how information technology can improve quality, efficiency, and access to healthcare. Students will be exposed to pure healthcare IT (HCIT)businesses, healthcare service businesses that rely heavily on IT to achieve their goals, and pure healthcare service businesses. Though the vast majority of these enterprises will be for-profit, the course will also examine the innovative role social ventures play in healthcare.

Educational Objectives

The healthcare industry is a late adopter of IT innovations (relative to other industries, such as finance, entertainment, or retail), and the use of information technology and mobile health applications (mHealth) within this sector has recently begun to explode. For example, adoption of electronic medical records by physicians has risen from 15% in 2000 to 57% in 2011. As data from healthcare providers and payors becomes ubiquitous, entrepreneurs are capitalizing on a tremendous opportunity to make sense of this data. Innovative start-ups are utilizing 'big data' and mHealth to offer solutions that improve quality, lower costs, and streamline access to healthcare services. This course will examine a series of innovations within the burgeoning HCIT industry, and look at the decisions entrepreneurs face as they refine their business models, innovate, and grow. The learning objectives of this course are:

  1. To examine the opportunities within the HCIT and healthcare service industries: What products are needed? How will these products improve access, quality and efficiency? How will the explosion in mHealth affect healthcare? How have service companies used innovation?
  2. To understand the incentives and needs of the major customers served by HCIT vendors (payors, providers, patients).
  3. To examine a number of business models and discuss how entrepreneurs make strategic decisions to find the "killer app".
  4. To survey the funding avenues available to new ventures and to examine how entrepreneurs realize value in HCIT. What options are available to founders and how do these options advance the business model and support (or detract from) the entrepreneur's goals for the company, its employees, and its growth prospects?

Course Content and Organization

The course is organized into six modules, with the goal of introducing students to the structure, customers, and prevailing applications of the HCIT industry.

Module I. Identifying the Opportunity: Cost, Quality or Access?

The healthcare services and HCIT markets are filled with opportunities to improve efficiency. We will examine ventures that improve cost-effectiveness, quality, and access to healthcare services. This module will also explore early issues entrepreneurs encounter, such as intellectual property, founder relationships, and legal structure.

Module II. Finding the Killer App

Entrepreneurs often are required to be flexible: to alter their business model in response to the most promising market. This section will examine a number of HCIT entrepreneurs on the cusp of making major business model decisions. For example, we will look at how start-ups can use pilot customers in this process.

Module III. Selecting the Customer: Patients, Providers or Payors?

Opportunities exist to streamline billing for providers, manage risk for payors, and provide lower cost care and/or higher quality care to patients. The module will examine the different markets in HCIT and the needs of various buyers. We will explore mHealth apps, including plays in the direct-to-consumer, mobile marketing, and price transparency spaces.

Module IV. Financing the Venture: Angels, VCs or Strategics?

We will examine the advantages and disadvantages of funding source available to the HCIT and healthcare services entrepreneur.

Module V. Getting to Scale: Setting the Metrics

This module will focus on how healthcare companies execute on their strategies.

Module VI. Realizing Value

This final module will examine the concerns of entrepreneurs as they seek to sell, partner, or head toward an IPO.