My Letter to Santa
By Lisa Suennen, Managing Partner, Venture Valkyrie Consulting, LLC
I’m writing to you with my Christmas wish list. I realize that I am a little over the typical age limit for this activity, but I am pretty short so maybe I can still pass for a kid? I also know that, as a venture capitalist, I may automatically default to the “naughty list.” But I am an eternal optimist and I’m hoping that the social value inherent in investing in healthcare instead of video games and drones can help me put a few points on the Santa board.
Here’s to hoping that my wishes will be fulfilled, For what it’s worth, I will be listening for Rudolph et al on Christmas Eve, cookies at the ready. I make really good cookies. Here’s my list, in no particular order:
- Great companies with rational valuations – I know it’s hoping for a lot, particularly the latter part, but hey, it never hurts to ask. It’s hard out here for a VC to make money when the buying-in price is looks down on the North Pole. I hate to be the Grinch, but great ideas turn into bad investments when the prices are too high.
- A better IPO market for digital health companies – despite being sought after investments on the private front, most of these companies have not fared well in the public markets. That’s a serious bummer. There is nothing worse than a bunch of once-shiny objects ending up on the Island of Misfit Toys, banished to the land between parentheses. It ruins the fun, or at least the exit opportunities, for everyone.
- A parade of experienced, driven, humble entrepreneurs who can balance their tech and healthcare knowledge for good – a corollary request is that the tech entrepreneurs who insist that healthcare professionals are “the ones who screwed everything up” and the healthcare entrepreneurs who proclaim that “the tech guys don’t know anything” all get eaten by the abominable snowman. Enough already with the rivalry. Can’t we all just get along?
- A world where venture capitalists and entrepreneurs recognize that diversity is a plus – Santa brings toys to all the boys AND girls and is open to hearing from any person of any age, sex or color who wants to participate. Wouldn’t it be nice if our industry could do the same? Note to Santa: I am not impressed with what appears to be an entirely male set of reindeer, sleigh-wise.
- A medical system that values the active role of the patient aka consumer – all too often the person at the business end of the stethoscope is viewed as a bundle of illnesses, not a person. It’s a bit like Frosty the Snowman without his magical hat – doomed to a life of objectification. But when he comes to life and is treated as a valuable member of the holiday team, he can perform magic. The patient deserves the same respect and engagement, with or without the magic hat.
- A better work environment for physicians, nurses and others who care for people – it’s getting tougher and tougher for medical/clinical personnel to do their jobs and get a sense of pride and enjoyment. Even elves get a chance to build different toys now and then without the paperwork. We need to find ways to bring the joy back to the delivery of medicine or we will fail to keep the best in the field. And believe me, we need the best.
- Recognition and reward for the unpaid and overwhelmed caregivers of our nation – These individuals, who number in the tens of thousand, take care of family and friends in need and especially those facing horrible challenges such as dementia or the impending ends of their lives. Caregivers selflessly give, often at peril to their own physical and financial health and well-being, and are all too often unsupported and unrecognized for these efforts. You know how Max the dog goes out of his way to serve the Grinch despite humiliation, extreme exertion and being dressed as a reindeer? You know how, in the end, he gets happiness, love and the roast beast? Our nation’s caregivers could use a cut of that roast beast, not to mention the love.
- An end to avoidable medical errors – ok, it may be impossible to have 100% perfection, but we can get a lot closer than we are today. It is tragic to contemplate the damage done to people by misdiagnosis, inaccurate treatment and other medical mistakes that simply do not need to happen. We all need to step up our game here, not settle for the Charlie Brown Christmas tree that flops over to the side. With the ministrations of the team, even that sad little tree became upright and beautiful.
- A pony – because as my Father always says, if there’s this much horse poop around, there must be a pony somewhere. And the horse poop, at least in my current state of mind, comes in the form of an untenable overuse of healthcare jargon that has made it impossible for us in the field to communicate with each other, let alone with patients. Words and phrases such as big data and population health and wellness and consumer engagement disruptive innovation and so many more have been so overused they have lost all meaning. I can literally listen to a company explain what it does for 10 minutes and have absolutely no idea what they are talking about. We need a little more English and a little less jibberish in healthcare if communication among all parties—patients, payers, providers, product manufacturers, etc—is going to improve for the common good. Let’s bring meaning back to healthcare, even if it takes a pony. PS—if a unicorn is available, I’d actually rather have that than a pony, just saying….
And for those of you now silently chastising me for not asking for peace instead of war, and the end to pain and suffering, and a world without hunger, disease and terrorism, that obviously goes without saying. That should be on our everyday list, not saved for the holidays. Don’t get me started on what I wish for our politicians. All I can say is that I hope they sell my favorite brand of chocolate in Canada.
Anyway, whatever your holiday of choice—Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, New Years Eve, Festivus or other—I hope yours is a great one and that you find love, relaxation and moments of joy before the new year revs up again. JP Morgan Conference, here I come! Happy Holidays everyone.
About the Author: Lisa Suennen is a venture capital investor and healthcare industry consultant. She is Managing Member of Cardeation Capital, a venture fund sponsored by the American Heart Association. Lisa is also Managing Partner of Venture Valkyrie Consulting, LLC, a firm that provides strategic advisory services to large corporations as well as corporate and independent venture capital funds around investment and product strategy, innovation spin-outs, market development, partnerships and financing. This article was originally published on Venture Valkyrie and is republished here with permission.