Strategic partnerships between health systems and startups can play a pivotal role in helping the field transform how care is delivered through digital innovation. These relationships, however, can be challenging for both sides to navigate.
Developing a common understanding of issues to solve, creating a thorough and efficient system to arrive at go or no-go decisions, aligning goals and building trust are foundational to strong partnerships. Here are three key takeaways that senior health care leaders, venture fund managers and entrepreneurs shared at the recent ViVE conference hosted by HLTH and the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME).
1 | Identify opportunities and make the case for partnerships.
When trying to address complex issues that no organization can solve individually, prospective partners must clearly define and develop a common understanding of the problem that they are coming together to solve, including:
- Identify thorny challenges. This applies to such issues as reducing costs, making care more affordable or developing a credentialing solution for supply chain vendors, says John Bass, founder and CEO, Hashed Health, a Nashville-based health care software firm.
- Choose a solution strategy. Once the problem is identified, health care leaders should carefully evaluate whether it is best to build a solution internally, purchase a solution or partner directly with a startup to co-design a solution, says Liz Rockett, managing director, Kaiser Permanente Ventures.
- Define success. Evaluate what success will look like, urges Aimee Quirk, CEO at Ochsner Ventures. Assess available resources and identify what type of relationship is needed to fill those gaps.
2 | Set yourself up to be a good partner.
Regardless of what type of relationship is developed, speakers suggested ways for health systems to be better partners, including:
- Create clear pathways for entrepreneurs. With so many potential entry points for startups to begin conversations – senior leaders, innovation centers, those leading information and technology or consumer experience efforts – it is helpful to identify which is most efficient.
- Streamline decision-making. Startups bemoaned how long it can take for health systems to commit to working with startups. Speakers stressed the need for health systems to evaluate the process and time it takes to analyze information, provide responses and ultimately arrive at a “yes,” “no,” or “no for right now.”
- Be frank about partnership opportunities. Health system leaders often enjoy talking with and learning from entrepreneurs, but it’s important to be forthcoming about whether a partnership is realistic, noted Nick Dougherty, vice president, digital innovation, AllWays Health Partners, a member of Mass General Brigham.
3 | Build trust.
As with any relationship, trust is imperative when working with startups, and speakers shared how they build trust, including:
- Transparency is key. Both health systems and startups can offer a road map for what will be needed to move the ball forward. Health systems can share the process and change-management components that must be met.
- Align goals. Trust can be built by having each party lay their cards on the table, including what they hope to gain from the partnership. Goal alignment is essential and trust can be strengthened by setting outcomes and measures for success together.
As we continue to transform how care is delivered, relationships between health systems and startups will continue to evolve. But the world is moving faster, and one way for incumbents, including health systems, to keep up is to embrace partnerships with startups that can help them produce solutions faster, noted Michelle Snyder, partner, McKesson Ventures.