A question for our readers: what does it take for health tech to cross borders well?

In considering the culture gap surrounding Telefónica’s stumble down the pit with O2–and other projects they had that didn’t cross borders well–this Editor thought it worthwhile to ask our readers, particularly our new ones, to kick off a conversation in Comments about this observation. There seem to be national barriers in health tech. Why?

What are the factors that enable health tech companies to cross borders and be successful?

This is not a comprehensive survey by any means, but in your Editor’s experience, it appears that most health tech innovation by smaller companies stays in the country of design. When it is purchased by a multi-national organization, cautiousness takes hold. Much of the liveliness of PERS market leader Lifeline has dimmed since Philips acquired it about 2008, and even its innovations are hardly noticed in the US. Care Innovations‘ products didn’t travel well (although QuietCare did achieve a UK footprint in the early LIG days of 2006-8). Despite our large Latino population in the US, Telefónica has never entered the US market. Alcatel-Lucent (Bell Labs) is not prominent here despite its heritage. GE Healthcare’s much-hyped Vscan ultrasound device is still on GE’s website, but not heard from since the Winter Olympics.

Among young, innovative companies, Israel seems to be an origination point. Aerotel has a strong market in the EU and white-labels telehealth devices in the US. New York is also a magnet for Israeli-connected early-stage companies and entrepreneurs;  Bob Shor of MediSafe, Tal Givoly of Medivizor and Bez Arkush of QoL Devices/Respironics come to mind. (And the latest ‘filing’ of course is Technion locating literally down the street from your Editor as part of the new Cornell Tech campus.) Above the 49th Parallel, Ideal Life’s telehealth has successfully crossed to the US, and a US company, Sykes, is successful in telehealth call center operations in Canada.

Your thoughts on these five factors–for comments below:

  • If your startup is based in the UK or EU, have you thought about reaching out to US funding through a US base?
  • If you’ve considered and rejected it, why?
  • Why do you think there isn’t more activity by UK/EU companies in the US (or Americas) markets?
  • What do you perceive as the differences between developing health tech ex US–and translating it to the US market?
  • What has been the experience of innovative US companies extending into non-US markets?
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  1. Cathy

    I recently joined the Stanford Venture Labs MOOC “Mobile Health Without Borders”; it was a truly eye-opening experience to understand how vastly different not just the technology differences are around the world but how varied the healthcare practice is too.

    The aim of the course was to work in teams to innovate an mHealth solution; there were thousands of innovative ideas (the final evaluation is still underway so not sure the outcomes yet) yet I noted that many involved reinventing the wheel rather than partnering to share the risk and cost (and therefore the return). Maybe the root of the issue is we perhaps need to send a few more carrier pigeons between our ivory towers and understand more about how culture, custom and existing technology variances impact the problem we aim to solve – then our solutions might cross borders better?

    For any innovators out there I think they will run this online course again – yes it does involve an investment in time but if you are serious about mHealth and reducing borders I would suggest it would be time well spent