The Smartphone Generation as New Nurse Entrepreneurs

Beth A. Brooks, PhD, RN, FACHE


Nurs Econ. 2019;37(6):332-335. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Many young nurse entrepreneurs genuinely love nursing, are committed to the mission of their start-up companies, and look forward to improving many lives. The knowledge, experience, and mentorship of nurse leaders is critical to the success of nurse entrepreneurs.


For nearly 2 years I have been serving as a mentor at MATTER, a healthcare technology incubator and accelerator in Chicago. MATTER is incubating 200 start-up companies: medical device, pharmaceutical, and diagnostic solutions; big data analytics, virtual and augmented reality, and artificial intelligence (including voice activated); along with health, wellness, care coordination, and patient education solutions. I noticed that many of these start-ups include only physicians on their advisory boards – even when the solution would be more commonly defined as nursing care (e.g., care coordination, patient education) – resulting in a much too narrow understanding of the healthcare ecosystem. Often these companies operate with a physician-centric, medical-model understanding of that healthcare ecosystem. One of my roles as a mentor has been to provide these start-up CEO/founders with advice and suggestions, to recommend nurse advisors and research findings, to make introductions and help secure pilot test locations, and, most importantly, to better educate them on how the healthcare ecosystem really works. Maybe the primary reason that my monthly mentoring clinics at MATTER have always filled up quickly is that I am the only registered nurse mentor there.

I've also noticed many of these companies tend to start with a solution in mind, rather than first assuring a comprehensive understanding of the problem they are proposing to solve. On the one hand, with investors spending $12 billion in 2017 on start-up companies, it is easy to understand the rush to "fix" a particular healthcare system issue. But last year, an article in Fast Company described a key reason why healthcare start-ups continue to fail: some entrepreneurs are not engaging first with bedside providers, patients, and families to identify the actual problems (Yock, 2018). Making this situation worse is that there are companies delivering solutions based on spurious claims drawn from so-called "stealth research," something that should concern all investors, payers, care providers, and consumers. Cristea, Cahan, and Ioannidis (2019) describe such stealth or gray research used by many companies to support their claims rather than the more appropriate peer-reviewed, empirical research. The few healthcare start-ups that have actually succeeded have done very little to improve access, quality, or cost issues for everyone; for the most part, they have focused exclusively on healthy and higher socioeconomic status healthcare consumers (Savafi, Mathews, Bates, Dorsey, & Cohen, 2019). I can't help but wonder how this picture would be different if more nurses were involved in the process of mentoring and advising healthcare technology companies, and if the result would be an increase to the current relative lack of registered nurse technology entrepreneurs.