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Avoid broad target markets

When health IT startups say they're making a new technology platform for physicians, John Sung Kim has an immediate follow-up question - for what specialty? That's a question he learned was critical as he began building and trying to sell the platform developed by his first health startup, DoctorBase. It's been a series of hits and misses, which Kim isn't afraid to talk candidly about. In a recent interview, he explained to MedCity News one of the most surprising things he learned when he set out to build a mobile platform that would let doctors, administrators and patients communicate without having to pick up the phone. “It's really important to spread out customers into different specialties, because they act like completely different businesses," he said. And they move at different paces in adopting new technologies. For example, DoctorBase's dermatology practices are actually quite robust and comfortable with mobile, Kim said. Meanwhile, more OBGYNs are just now starting to see it as a good opportunity as well. Those practices are no strangers to after-hours calls about test restults and inquiries from first-time mothers, so they're interested in new, better ways to handle all of those inquiries. “Those are things that we never foresaw," he said. He also didn't foresee orthopedic surgery being the company's third-fastest-growing vertical. “They're financially incentivized to perform surgeries, but there are really no reimbursements for the 90 days post-op; that's all a loss for them, so to be able to manage that electronically with a digital office is a real benefit," he said. As for what happens after a company has decided its target specialties, Kim offers this advice: "If we could do it over again, we would have spent at least six months to one year working on site or near-site with a handful of actual customers."

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