Have you heard about this?
The scam: Stealing more than $500,000 from buyers eager to acquire a miracle wearable.
The product: BioRing, a device that was supposed to do everything from measuring caloric intake to tracking sleep.
How they did it: Creating a carefully coordinated public relations campaign that earned it coverage in numerous publications, including Forbes. Using social proof and social engineering to lower buyers’ defenses and earn their trust (and money).
The lesson: Digital health scams are rising. Learn how to avoid becoming a victim.
According to Global Market Insights, the global digital health market will be worth at least $379 billion by 2024. With so much money pouring into digital health, the market is bound to attract its share of people who range from dishonest to simply well-meaning but lacking the ability to deliver what they claim.
There’s a lot at stake. Reputations, money, time … It’s important to develop skills that help you quickly separate the real deals in digital health — from the B.S.
Here are five tips. All are based on my experience evaluating (often rapidly) hundreds of digital health companies and innovations for everyone from startups to executives from mega health organizations.
I: If It Sounds To Good to Be True … It Is
With sensors and other innovations becoming cheaper, smaller and more powerful, innovators are figuring out how to do more with less. Even with this in mind, it’s best to be very skeptical of product claims (especially in wildly diverse areas) until you’ve seen evidence they are real. For example, one product I recently evaluated claimed it would be able to detect blood alcohol levels. Perhaps, but this my research quickly revealed that this very hard to do and other devices were already being developed, undergoing significant testing (and even winning awards) with this functionality. Based on this evidence it was clear this device maker may have been over-emphasizing their ability to deliver this feature.
If a product/service has a diverse laundry list of features, it’s best (at least) to be very skeptical.
II: No Evidence … No Solid Demo … You Might Want to Pass
Evaluating early stage companies with promising innovations can be very tough. You can give them the benefit of the doubt, but you need to know they can execute. What to do? It’s best if the firm has engaged in pilots with organizations, which provides real-world evidence of its ability to execute. Another beneficial sign can be if the underlying technology was developed based on previous early-stage research. Of course, the gold standard is quality of life, economic or clinical studies. Finally, having the ability to demo a product — using real data/use cases if applicable — can provide you with confidence the technology works at a very early stage.
III: Team/Innovator Experience Matters — A lot
Certainly, it can help to like the team/innovator behind the product. However, it’s often more important to look closely at the team/innovator’s background. Do they have relevant experience? Do they know healthcare (good), your industry sector (best)? If yes, fantastic. If not, this should give you pause.
IV: Look Closely at the Technology Stack
What tools are being used to develop this product? Do they make sense/are being applied appropriately? Look beyond impressive sounding buzzwords. Machine learning, behavioral economics, etc. are all trendy and (increasingly) people are claiming their products take advantage of these innovations. Always ask: Why are these tools being used (in the product)? What do they help achieve? Asking a few vital “why” and ‘what” questions and listening carefully to the answers can reveal a lot.
V: Getting Insights from People (Experts) is Important, But Understand the Motivation/Perspective Behind Their Answers
Of course we all rely on external experts and others to provide input into companies, technologies and people when evaluating innovations. But, it’s equally important to think about what is informing someone’s perspective. Were they formally at the company and there’s bad blood? Are they developing a potentially competing technology? Do they have real-world experience with the innovation in question or are just speaking from general knowledge? Understanding motives, knowledge and perspectives will help you utilize (and asses) human expertise efficiently.
P.S. When assessing digital health innovations, I rely on our DigiHealth Informer platform (it has more than 4 million data points about the global market) and working relationship with a major firm with a unique global network of experts who understand how to execute digital health in multiple fields intimately.
Author: Fard Johnmar, Founder, President, Enspektos, LLC