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How one healthcare entrepreneur navigated the reimbursement landscape

Christina Hernandez Sherwood, eMed Editor, MedCity News

The goals of TalkSession -- to increase the accessibility of mental healthcare, improve patient outcomes, and lower costs while maintaining HIPAA compliance -- were difficult to achieve on a national level, said the startup's co-founder and CEO Melissa Thompson. "We would need to have local providers in 50 states," she said. "It would take a lot of money and a lot of time."

So rather than approach providers or patients with TalkSession, a telemedicine platform meant to connect people with therapists, Thompson went straight to the payers, namely insurance companies. Aetna, for instance, already has its own network of providers. Thompson worked within that structure and added a layer on top. "It was a way to make this technology more available," she said.

Here are other entrepreneurial insights from Thompson:

Find a specialist lawyer -- Every startup needs to incorporate, create bylaws, develop contract templates, and perform other legal tasks, Thompson said. "There are startup law firms that gear their terms in a friendly way to entrepreneurs," she said, by deferring fees, for instance. But almost exclusively, Thompson said, firms that specialize in helping startups aren't also healthcare specialists. To ensure TalkSession had its bases covered, Thompson hired a second law firm to help with healthcare-related legal issues, such as HIPAA. "There are some things in healthcare one needs to do as a founder," she said.

Don't ignore IP -- When Thompson first started TalkSession, she thought IP seemed too expensive for the early-stage startup to handle. "Often entrepreneurs, as I did at first, wave it off," she said. But a friend insisted Thompson speak to an IP attorney. "It ended up being invaluable," she said. "I learned so much in that process. I ended up making product decisions based on what I learned." Most beneficial, Thompson said, was learning about what IP was already out there and ruling out potential conflicts.

Find a community -- There are many communities of startups and mentors in the healthcare space, Thompson said. "I found it incredibly valuable to be associated with a number of those groups," she said. One such community was Springboard Enterprises, which helped Thompson and other women entrepreneurs prepare pitches, meet government policymakers, and learn from industry experts. "People by nature want to help others that were in the same position as them a few years prior," she said. "Sharing resources amongst your network is also a key to being successful."

Photo by Victor1558

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