With re­form tak­ing hold in health care, firm needs pre­scrip­tion for a pivot.

The Washington Post Sunday - - BUSINESS -

This week, the ex­perts at the D.C. chap­ter of the busi­ness men­tor­ing group Score of­fer a pre­scrip­tion for help­ing a healthre­lated small busi­ness thrive in a chang­ing mar­ket.

— Dan Bey­ers

The en­tre­pre­neur: More than 24 years ago, Jean Drum­mond hung up her white med­i­cal coat and set her sights on fed­eral gov­ern­ment con­tract­ing in the health in­dus­try. As a strat­egy to ex­pand her com­pany, she be­came 8(a) cer­ti­fied through the U.S. Small Busi­ness Ad­min­is­tra­tion. She grad­u­ated from the SBA 8(a) pro­gram and grew HCD In­ter­na­tional into a sus­tain­able gov­ern­ment con­trac­tor.

“It has been an in­cred­i­bly ar­du­ous process but also quite re­ward­ing,” she said.

Com­mit­ted to a vi­sion of en­sur­ing qual­ity health care for all peo­ple, no mat­ter the type of health in­sur­ance or abil­ity to pay, Jean was de­ter­mined to gain a greater un­der­stand­ing of the fed­eral health poli­cies that guide the de­liv­ery of care be­tween the pa­tient, provider and payer. Jean con­fronted the is­sues of how to bridge the gap, and how to build a prof­itable com­pany when our pol­i­cy­mak­ers are in the midst of much change and un­cer­tainty. To­day, HCD In­ter­na­tional has an ex­ten­sive health pol­icy prac­tice that cre­ates and im­ple­ments in­no­va­tive com­mu­nity out­reach strate­gies to im­prove the qual­ity of care for vul­ner­a­ble pop­u­la­tions. The ser­vices in­clude health pol­icy anal­y­sis, data an­a­lyt­ics, tech­ni­cal writ­ing, health IT, and so­cial mar­ket­ing and out­reach. She has suc­cess­fully col­lab­o­rated with ma­jor health-care providers and suc­cess­fully won con­tracts with fed­eral, state and pri­vate sec­tor agen­cies.

The chal­lenge: Given the dra­matic and fre­quent changes, and un­cer­tainty in the health-care mar­ket, how does a small com­pany re­spond? Jean be­gan by con­duct­ing mar­ket re­search to sup­port her strat­egy. Health-care costs were as­tro­nom­i­cal and con­tin­u­ing to es­ca­late. Health-care out­comes re­mained poor. Many peo­ple are unin­sured and un­der­in­sured, cre­at­ing a crit­i­cally off­bal­ance sys­tem. The Af­ford­able Care Act was the re­sponse to the chal­lenge. Although it was not per­fect, it paved the way for in­no­va­tive sys­tems re­form. But many chal­lenges rel­a­tive to im­ple­men­ta­tion re­main. Jean’s quest was to find the right op­por­tu­nity for HCDI.

“How should I pivot and lever­age HCDI’s spe­cial ca­pa­bil­i­ties to sup­port these needs, de­spite the very con­fused, po­lit­i­cally charged, new en­vi­ron­ment?”

The ad­vice, Bruce Gitlin, Score coun­selor, Washington, D.C., chap­ter:

“HCDI must lever­age its past per­for­mances in the key ar­eas of health pol­icy, qual­ity mea­sures, and con­sumer en­gage­ment. HCDI needs to quickly iden­tify a niche that fits its unique skill set, ca­pac­ity and suc­cesses within this large and con­fus­ing mar­ket. This starts by seg­ment­ing the mar­ket into small pieces and rank­ing the seg­ments by a set of cri­te­ria (e.g. size of op­por­tu­nity, strength of com­pe­ti­tion, fit with skills, cap­ture chances, etc.).

“Then de­velop a value propo­si­tion and strate­gic road map that leads to HCDI be­com­ing a rec­og­nized leader in that niche. The value propo­si­tion should be a short state­ment that tells the cus­tomer your so­lu­tion to their prob­lem, why it is bet­ter than com­pe­ti­tion and why it is cred­i­ble. In ad­di­tion, the com­pany should build a board of ad­vis­ers (com­pen­sated on an hourly ba­sis, if nec­es­sary) to bring sta­teof-the-art ad­vice. En­gage them at least monthly and use them to keep on top of the ex­pected rapid changes in mar­ket di­rec­tion. Care­fully re­search who are the ex­perts in the field and de­velop a rea­son why they would help — what’s in it for them? Over­all, keep the fo­cus and un­der­stand where the cus­tomer pain (real or po­lit­i­cally driven) is great­est.” Score is a non­profit as­so­ci­a­tion ded­i­cated to en­tre­pre­neur ed­u­ca­tion. Look­ing for some ad­vice on a new busi­ness, or need help fix­ing an ex­ist­ing one? Con­tact cap­biznews@wash­post.com or re­quest a men­tor at www.wash­ing­tondc.score.org.

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