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Digital Health Entrepreneurship: What You Need to Know

Karla Lester, MD outlines key findings learned over her years of digital entrepreneurship, to help physicians interested in digital health entrepreneurship optimize their own success.

January 10, 2024

I’m a long-time serial founder of pediatric health innovations.

Whether a carve-out multidisciplinary specialty clinic within my large partner owned private practice, the launch of a nonprofit to address childhood obesity, the creation of a pediatric weight management clinic, a population health center, a digital coaching platform for teens, a metabolic tele-health platform, or building my TikTok platform.

Every success starts with two things and they are in this order. 

  1. Vision– what do you envision or hope to make happen
  2. The problem. Not your solution. 

I promise the problem is not what you think it is. 

If you want to be a digital health entrepreneur, it’s not because you want to be a digital health entrepreneur.

The internet is its own universe. Starting out, you will not even amount to a drop of water in an ocean. You won’t be successful, at least not in the long run if you attach to romantic notions. It’s a slog. 

 

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The reason must be that you want to connect and help people.

I had started to launch, well before Covid, a digital health platform for teens struggling with their weight, health and body image.

Because I have worked in the area of childhood obesity for so long, I know the problem with weight stigma and the research that shows that teens have high attrition rates, poor attendance, and poor adherence rates when going to weight management programs.

Connecting online decreases stigma. Also, accessibility is a major issue. To experts, that is.

My platform resolved those two major issues for teens and parents right away. Also, creating a community is easier online these days. 

I launched IME Community in January 2021 and this year, launched Metabolic Telehealth for children & adolescents at drkarlamd.com. I’ve learned so much and want to help guide you so you can avoid some of my failures. You will have your own, to be sure. I can help guide you to make prioritized investments that will get you more ROI. 

 

Connecting online decreases stigma.

 

My work is in three areas: advocacy, coaching and telehealth.

Focus on the one thing that makes the other things possible.

My focus is on building my Metabolic Telehealth platform.

Don’t apologize for helping people who have money. They need your help, too. That’s paid research and learning. 

Go for direct marketing. You to your client. That’s just like in medicine. Doctor and patient working together in shared decision making for improved health outcomes. Don’t get stuck in old ways of doing things and thinking about things. You don’t need fancy marketing plans. Get on social media and keep showing up. It’s hard to build a following on Instagram unless you got in on it at the right time. TikTok is a nice platform for small creators, but get ready for the trolls as you build your platform. Listen and learn and advocate. 

 

Go for direct marketing. You to your client. That’s just like in medicine. Doctor and patient working together in shared decision making for improved health outcomes. Click To Tweet

 

Be agile and constantly churn and change. Have a continuous Quality Improvement lens. 

Almost 90% of my referrals come from TikTok. Not my email list. Not SEO (search engine optimization). I know why. It’s because the app allows for connection and authenticity. Parents and teens can peruse my videos or they come up on their fyp (for you page, if you’re not in the know) and decide for themselves if they want to connect with me. 

I’m continuing with SEO with a goal to have a balance with more referrals coming from google searches, from my email list and not just from TikTok. But, I also don’t care. If 100% come from TikTok, that’s okay. 

 

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Keep in mind that the business plan you start with won’t be what you will end up with. I made the mistake of making a member community a big part of my website launch, but for many reasons, and most out of my control, it didn’t take off like I wished and thought it would. No problem. I made another round of investments in 2023 to update my website to have a work with dr. karla page that reflects what I’m doing now. Also, I loved my initial website so much and specifically those pages about the member community, it was very hard for me to retire those. But, I did. Let stuff go that you love. 

Protect your assets. Make your own investments as much as possible. Do almost everything yourself. You know the most and you know best. Use an attorney to create a professional LLC to develop privacy policies, for malpractice coverage questions, and to protect your intellectual property by applying for federal trademarks. 

Competition is only a distraction. It’s fine. Don’t waste time on it. Keep doing what you do and don’t worry about it. Don’t ever mention or bad mouth your competition as a form of marketing for you. Let your work speak for itself. 

Create a business plan and stick to it. Make strategic investments. 

 

Competition is only a distraction. It’s fine. Don’t waste time on it. Click To Tweet

 

Create a simple brand and website and set up your website with SEO in mind. Rarely will you find an agency that can work with you on branding, website development, copywriting, SEO, and marketing. Unless it’s a large agency that has the diversity of expertise, you are better off finding a SEO expert on your own, getting referrals or devoting time to learning about SEO yourself. Blogs are a good way to build SEO, linking to articles, creating top 10 lists, making a quiz, and doing your keyword research. 

Google is looking to optimize their user experience, so the more of an expert and authority and the more experience you have, the better. 

Get your data and make it only mean the numbers. Get out of your head and depersonalize. If you personalize outcomes, you will fail. 

Cheers to a year of health innovations!

Karla Lester, M.D

Karla Lester, MD

“Creating community with compassionate connection!”- Dr. Karla, ActivistMD

All opinions published on SomeDocs-Mag are the author’s and do not reflect the official position of SoMeDocs, its staff, editors. SoMeDocs is a magazine built with the safety of free expression and diverse perspectives in mind. For more information, or to submit your own opinion, please see our submission guidelines or email opmed@doximity.com. Do you have a compelling personal story you’d like to see published on SoMeDocs? Find out what we’re looking for here and submit your writing, or send us a pitch.

All opinions published on SomeDocs-Mag are the author’s and do not reflect the official position of SoMeDocs, its staff, editors. SoMeDocs is a magazine built with the safety of free expression and diverse perspectives in mind. Do you have a compelling personal story you’d like to see published on SoMeDocs? Submit your own article now here.

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