Health Innovators
Health Innovators

Episode · 3 years ago

Overcoming Innovation Hurdles & High Failure Rate w/Stacie Ruth


For many healthcare innovators, one of the biggest challenges is managing everything that’s required in the commercialization process. There are so many factors competing for priority. it can be extremely daunting and distracting. How do we develop an innovation to solve a problem the right way? What kind of structures and methodologies need to be put in place? What are the most important things to focus on?

In this episode, Aire Health CEO Stacie Ruth shares her transition from commercializing innovations in the corporate world to leading a healthcare startup. She shares insights into how innovators can increase the chances of market success.


3 Things We Learned 

The problem we’re solving is key to successful commercialization

One of the challenges innovators face is getting caught up in solving the problem without really considering if that problem is something the care community is seeking to solve. If the problem is not a priority for your target market, it can be a huge stumbling block even if we have a great solution. 

Successful commercialization is about product
and execution 

Health innovators can’t solely focus on the product and expect to succeed. Commercial success is more strategy development and execution and less about the product. We have to focus on developing clarity around the problem we’re solving, the identity of our brand, the implementation team executing the commercialization, and stakeholder buy-in.

Invest in opportunities for exposure and stakeholder interactions 

It’s important to take time to get involved in innovations and events that increase exposure for our innovations. If we have a clear vision of our ideal business, and we can articulate that vision with a story, we need to start sharing that story. We’ll start getting enough feedback to iterate our strategy and better understand how we can solve the problems in healthcare.

Successful commercialization starts with identifying the problem we’re solving and prioritizing the allocation of resources and capabilities. We can’t try to do everything. Once we have the problem clearly identified and we validate market fit, it’s about building the right implementation team and executing well. We have to align goals, people, resources and the greater market in which we’re playing. To hear more on Stacie Ruth’s perspective on successful commercialization, check out the podcast episode on Apple Podcasts and Spotify, or get the full interview video on our website!

Welcome to Coiq, and first of its kind video program about health innovators, earlier doctors and influencers, and their stories about writing the roller coaster of healthcare innovation. I'm your host, Dr Roxy, founder of Legacy DNA marketing group, and it's time to raise our COIQ. Welcome back to the show, CIQ listeners. On today's episode, I have the pleasure of speaking to Stacy Ruth. She is the CO founder and CEO for air health and I am really excited to have this conversation with her today. For you that are other health innovators in the trenches, I think that she's going to have a lot of wisdom and just her experience about commercializing innovation, I think she's going to have a lot of wisdom to share with us today. So thank you for joining us, Stacy. Thank you for having me, Dr Roxy. So you know, what I like to do is just start off, for the people who don't know who you are, just to chair a little bit about your background and what you're doing. So I am so excited. I have never shared my background so much. I have to tell you, I love it. Right you can to put twenty years into a little sound bite. And I like that. My background before starting your health this year was in med device and I have been both on the commercialization side. I actually carried a bag myself. So the first job that I had in healthcare was to sell capital equipment and I did that in the Tennessee, the Carolinas and Georgia. From there I moved more into leadership rolls with a sales organization. Then really switch sides and and became more of a business leader and as a business leader and my time was spent at Philip's healthcare and as a business leader there I had the opportunity to move all the way from the ice idea stage of products really in the Med device connected hell digital propositions all the way through the product development cycle and then responsible for commercializing those in a profitable way. So that's how I spent my last ten years. Launched Adventure in Boston, was one of the biggest accomplishments of the last few years and I'm excited now to be in Orlando with their health. That's great. So I imagine that you had seen the world of healthcare technology evolved quite a bit over the last ten years. It has evolved quite quickly and actually it was that that evolution. If you look at tell a health what tell a health a thirty year journey and if feel to people like it's new, right, and it's because they're seeing now the fruits of all of that Labor and the commercialization process, you know, come to fruition. Sure, sure, how I would say that? Of course it's evolved. It's evolves since one thousand nine hundred and ninety nine when I started reading and with ackered you know, in medical sales. But the the reality of it is is that it's a slow noticing of that...

...evolution and then a very fast, you know, way to observe it once it's been commercialized. So I see a lot. Yep. So so let's share a little bit with our audience about, you know what, what are you experiencing or what is it like writing this roller coaster of healthcare invation, because I say it's like the wild wild west. It's just crazy out there. So you know, what is it like for you? Yes, so you're calling it a roller coaster and certainly the startup life. It's up, it's down every day and sometimes twice before lunch, right. Yeah, yeah, but I always looked at it as like an ocean and the set of waves that are coming in and what I always looked to do when we were scoping out the market place, looking for what some would call white space or looking for just that little sliver of market opportunity where you could solve a problem that wasn't being solved very well. I tend to watch the ocean come in and I like to see things when they're coming up on their crest. Now, so what it like for me at our health is we're really looking at taking a digital technology, if that's not so digital today, but it's very well established medical technology that has reached that crest of maturity and then literally ride the way then with the digital health theme. That's exciting. It is exciting. That's really exciting. It's like you're surfing right. Yeah, not a great surfer, I have tried riding the wave. So, you know, one of the things that I think is so interesting about your story and what you're doing is you know your background in corporate America. You met mentioned HP, you mentioned Phillips, and and so you know what you're doing is really different. So you know how how is it different for you commercializing technology, innovation within a corporation versus, you know, being the leader of a emergent startup. Yes, so I like to think that you're doing the same exact work. Resources available to you are very different, and I so I'm sort of refusing to take off right those years of business experience. I'm not going to take that out of out of my way of working. Sure, I'm not going to take that out of my tool kit to understand, you know, what is it like to put process in place? What is it like to follow a methodology? Sure, you know. What is it like to understand if this business can even be profitable before you spend the first dollar of your investment? No, it's about kind of following the rules, if you will, and doing it in such a way that you know you have all this opportunity ahead and you're applying the logic and the rules of a bigger business.

So so I think that that's definitely an advantage that you have maybe two other entrepreneurs that didn't come from such a maybe more structured background with systems, processes and methodology and kind of thinking about that from from the very beginning. Yes, that's great. Yeah, so what are some of the challenges that you think that health innovators face today when they're trying to commercialize and innovation. Well, I think that it's seeing the problem with literal you have to see the problem literally right and you have to accept that if a problem is there but it's not recognized by the care community, it's not a problem that you're going to be able to solve very easily. And I think one of the challenges is that we get wrapped up in we can solve a problem. Look at this problem, look at how we solve it. But if the problem is not seen as impactful enough to solve, that can be a huge stumbling block, even with the most fantastic commercialization plan ever, or you won't get adoption right. Right, yeah, absolutely. You know, I have that conversation with so many health innovators like yourself, who really spend years doing a lot of armed twisting. Right, it's like you know I'm going. You have a problem. Don't you see it? Don't you see it? I see it. You have a problem. Let's solve it and exactly, and either it's just maybe it's not, as it's not a priority for them. It's not it's not expensive enough, it's not causing a big enough pain, you know, kind of like you're touching on or you know, these organizations can just only focus on so many things and it's just not one of their top port priorities for the next three to five years. HMM, you're exactly right, and I would even add to that. So, so my background in corporate America, it is no different on the industry side. Yeah, right, the initiatives come and go. Yep, the commitment to maybe a very well laid plan, maybe you run out of runway on that plan. Yeah, and so it's very, very similar industry and then the healthcare delivery side. So so I totally respect that. Yeah, they might be the flavor of the day for a while again, the thirty year journey on tell a health, but now we actually want that thirty first flavor from you know, we actually want to take a bite. So I do think it is about shifting sand, shifting priorities and understanding that you have to have to also shift your value proposition a bit to follow that problem all the way through. Yeah, yeah, so I talked a lot about, you know, this failure rate, the the just incredible hurdle that health innovators have to overcome. You know, statistically right and kind of beat the odds of success and failure.

You know from your perspective, why do you think some health innovators fail while some succeed? What's going on there? So I do think that it is a little more about the method and a little less about, you know, how how wonderful the product might be, and I think that in and in health innovation, I think the team and the process that team uses to commercialize is as important as what you're commercializing. So again, once you have that big problem identified and you and you have a match to that problem, you've confirmed that match, it is really about the team that's executing it. So the ability to raise enough money to get it to market, sure to actually engage with healthcare providers in such a way that they have credibility and that a healthcare provider doesn't push that down the priority list. And it's about being able to deliver on the promises that you're making consistently to all of your stakeholders. And I think that's a lot to get lined up for a small business. Yeah, yeah, absolutely, it's a lot. Yeah, it's definitely a lot of alignment between people and goals. Yeah, absolutely. So. So what advice do you have actually, you know what, what are some keys to success? You know, when we kind of talk about these challenges that innovators face and why some succeed and why some fail, what do you think are some keys of success? So I think that will first of all, innovation can be defined in so many different ways and I think that the way that you define your problem, answering that problem can be defined in many different ways, and the keys to success are to understand, have extreme clarity again, around the problem statement and the alternatives to solving that problem. HMM. The next thing that I believe in, whether you're running a big business, a small business, you're innovating in healthcare or even beyond, it's to prioritize. Right. Prioritize really just simply means make choices. Yeah, and you have to have a really, really strong foundation to how you make those choices and how you implement the choices that you've made. So, I know it sounds very simple. It is not kind of a magic one or fairy ust that you can put on the situation, but it's really about having some level of commitment to the problem you're solving and to do that by prioritizing, not to try to do everything. So you know that's so true, stacy, because it's so easy to get distracted by, like you said, the flavor of the day, right, or, you know, this additional problem that we could solve or, you know, having a pilot company come up...

...with other ideas of things that you could solve for them, right, or how you can solve it differently. And there's so many things that are competing for your attention as the you know, as the Innovator, and you've got, Gosh, you know, a long list, right. So how many things are on your list to get done? Absolutely, and it's really about determining what you aren't, MMM, and and not focusing so much on what you are. Yeah. So at air help, we know we're respiratory care company, right, that's the big what we are, but then we start carving out what we aren't, more what we aren't right now. Yeah, and even though it might get you that first customer more quickly to focus on something that you aren't, in the long run, again prioritizing and lining up all of those steps in your innovation process, then in your commercialization process you'll be much better off for determining what you aren't and taking it off the table for people. Yep, so what are what are some of the decisions that you've made that that you've already kind of started to see some of the fruits of that Labor? So we made a decision pretty early on and we used a very I'll call it a business school process, where we did some very fast business case building around respiratory care. M said drug delivery in respiratory care. What are our options? What can we do pairing this problem and this technology? M We actually came up with fifteen unique business propositions and put the Warton hat on and we calculated it and we make general determinations and we landed on the top three. We could do this, we could be this, we could do this. Okay, and with that that was the very first set of decisions that we made of these top three founders, advisors, early team. Which one are we going to be? Yeah, and what are we not going to be? And those were the first decisions. And then from that we engaged people and agency such as yours to actually say to us, okay, fantastic, you've chosen the lane that you're going to be in. Now, let's determine if the innovation does in fact, you know, lead us to the right problem. Yeah, right solution, the right product market fit. And then how would you commercialize this business plan that you have? So it's really about it's just taking it one step at a time and a little bit of background and, you know, having the experience that I have, I understand sort of what comes first, what comes second, what comes third? Yeah, and for innovators that don't know those steps or don't feel like they have full command of those steps, grab an advisor, someone like me out in the market place, I was extremely willing to offer that...

...type of help and assistant and and I'm still doing so here locally for a couple of companies in the healthcare space. You know, I knew what lane I wanted to be in. Yeah, but you know, if you don't know how to do it, go find someone who does and bring them into your team. Yeah, absolutely. So, you know, because me, because we've been you know, we've known each other for a while now, I'm familiar with a lot of the exciting things that's been happening with you and air health. So just share some of those successes. Right, let's celebrate those wins that you had. Right, let's just talk about it. And then also, I want to know, you know, how important do you think in it applying and how important do you think those types of initiatives are to your commercialization process? Yes, so I was scared to death to pitch my business. All right, so this is the February time frame. We know what we want to be. We have a beautiful deck. Yeah, some people that are beautiful. Some people thought it wasn't. Go pitch it right, right, right. So I just said, you know, I'm never going to know unless I start to get feedback on this. I'm going to pick one. The very first one I picked was one of the largest accelerator programs in the United States and and I was asked to come out to California and present at Ucla, top thirty in the pool, and it was. It was game changing for me. For first of all, it didn't go very well the first presentation. Maybe big. Could could say that maybe don't go that big the first time, but I write that I took an advisor with me. She watched me right, she gave feedback to me, she watched the other people, she went to the reception after and ask questions about. What did you see with stacy? What did you see with air health help make this better? HMM. Once we had that feedback, I just started applying like crazy. That's enable. Exactly two events that would have me right. Second Opportunity Locally, Rawlins venture competition with Rawlins College and the Crummer School of business. One An award there. That was at the first money in the bank that didn't come from US others world and actic feeling. And then we went went on in the next couple of six weeks to win Steve Case's revolution honor, which is called rise of the rest. So we were the first winner in the two thousand and nineteen bus tour. That happened and they you know, we want a hundred thousand dollars. I mean it was fantastic. Didn't the first TV, did my first MPR radio. It was really a lot of first and all I can tell you is, if you know what you want your business to be and you have a decent way to articulate that with a story, get out there and start telling the story...

...and you will get more than enough feedback to move from where you are into true innovation and solving the problem that's that is incredible. I don't know if health innovators invest enough time in those initiatives. I think that sometimes their focus on building the business and in just, you know, because those things, you know, those applications aren't, you know, five minutes to submit right. I can give you a little trick, though. Okay, so what you do is you you build a content file right the and it'll evolved. But the way that you want to present yourself in these programs. They ask it all kinds of different ways and what all kinds of different formatting. But if you will create what is my elevator pitch? What is my business proposition? What is my market opportunity? All the way down the line, after you've done one, two or three of those and you seek all the way they're going to ask you, keep it in a file and cut and paste it. I can get through one of those applications now in ten minutes. That's fantastic. That's a great tip. Yes, so, so what other advice do you have for fellow innovators and entrepreneurs that are in the trenches right now that are, you know, some struggling, some having some success, some maybe really discouraged with have really, you know, stuck in pilot purgatory or just having little adoption. You know what? What are some of the advice and encouragement that you would have for folks? Yes, so I'll blended together because I we are not yet in the piloting mode. We do have an opportunity to start a pilot in the fall and we are well on our way to ensuring, through the appropriate Master Services Agreement's, the appropriate statements of work, to really focus on being sure that the pilot, if you will, is a success, because we've laid it out from the beginning with purpose point. So we're ahead of that. So I don't have a lot of advice to say as a small company. I'm in the middle of that and know what to tell you. Yeah, I can tell you is the the last thing that I did while I was at Phillips was to launch a wearable's venture and that that wearable's venture was a digital health proposition. We partnered with a company out of Silicon Valley and with that we set about on an eighteen month piloting program and that I learned a lot from. So what I can tell you the big names aren't always the best names. Okay. So if you can find a good fit for the type of personality that you have as a business and as a leader, and the personality and the fit of the leadership and the mission of the health system, doctor, provider, payer, whatever it is that you're going after with your innovation, match the people first.

Personalities First, so important. Find so much more success. Save the big names, save them for a little bit later, save them for the big, bigger companies, because they've earned that reward of having those bigger headaches. Honestly. Okay, so, so they get the bigger business, they get the bigger personalities. So so, I mean no disrespect to the big brands. Will get there one day. But even as a big company, we chose our pilots a little more specifically around fit for purpose, been for personality, not necessarily how we going to get the biggest bang for our marketing buck by talking about this pilot. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. I think that that's some true wisdom that everyone could heed for sure. So they so, if people want to get ahold of you, what's the best way for them to connect with you? So I will give you my email address directly and please send me a mail. I'm I am still on that corporate mindset of before I get out of bed in the morning I've already planned to answer everyone, so that still stuck around. So it is my first name and my last name. So Stacy, Stacie Dot Ruth, are you thh and that is at are a, IRA dot health. So Stacy Ruth at Air DOT health. Please reach out to me, and our website is simply are dot health, spelled the same way, and you can reach me directly from there as well and learn a little bit more about the company and our progress. What's the difference between launching and commercializing a healthcare in avation? Many people will launch a new product, few will commercialize it. To learn the difference between launch and commercialization and to watch past episodes of the show, head to our video show page at Dr Roxycom. Thanks so much for watching and listening to the show. You can subscribe to the latest episodes on your favorite podcast APP like apple podcasts and spotify, or subscribe to the video episodes on our youtube channel. No matter the platform, just search coiq with Dr Roxy. Until next time, LET'S RAISE OUR COIQ.

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