Unlocking Innovation: The Power of Strategic Partnerships in Healthcare
At Redesign Health, we partner with leading healthcare incumbents to provide our expertise, insights, and infrastructure to lower barriers to change and accelerate healthcare innovation. A core part of this work includes identifying opportunities for collaboration between healthcare organizations and our 50+ Operating Companies, with the ultimate goal of partnering to drive meaningful change.
At the 2023 Re View Summit, we brought together industry experts from across the healthcare landscape for a discussion that explored how startups can more effectively partner with incumbents. The panel “Seeking Partner Insights for Success” explored the importance of understanding the broader healthcare ecosystem and delivering solutions that integrate seamlessly with existing technologies.
Brenda Schmidt, Head of Enterprise Growth at Redesign Health, moderated the discussion with Adam Cheriff, MD, Chief of Clinical Operations at Weill Cornell Medicine; Aman Shah, Vice President of New Ventures & Strategic Partnerships at VNS Health; Michael Perlmutter, Senior Vice President at Lockton and Brian Schroeder, Senior Director of Operations at Montefiore Health System. Here are their insights:
Understanding the wider ecosystem
One of the key takeaways centered on the need for solutions that integrate with a buyer’s existing technologies. For example, hospitals and health systems are seeking ways to augment the capabilities of their current systems and technology infrastructure, rather than invest in an isolated system or independent platform.“What I often see with startup proposals… is that they want to become the center of gravity in terms of the workflow as a standalone platform or solution,” Dr. Cheriff said. “[But] we don't want a platform. We don't want an application. We want a capability, or we want a functionality. And we want that capability and functionality to be integrated into the workflow tool that we already have.”
“[But] we don't want a platform. We don't want an application. We want a capability, or we want a functionality. And we want that capability and functionality to be integrated into the workflow tool that we already have." - Dr. Adam Cheriff
Startups must also keep in mind that many incumbents have their own strategic goals. “You need to understand [each buyer’s] appetite for innovation and for partnering with early-stage companies,” Shah said.
He explained that partners may be limited in their capacity to take on early-stage investments or co-launching partnerships. Thus, startups must assess a partner’s openness to these types of partnerships from the beginning, and determine whether they currently have the bandwidth for new, time-intensive investments.
"You need to understand [each buyer’s] appetite for innovation and for partnering with early-stage companies." - Aman Shah
Solving critical organizational needs: demonstrating value and building trust
Scalability emerged as a pivotal factor for success, with an emphasis on startups fulfilling their promises to avoid organizational fatigue. Incumbents are seeking solutions that can both solve a unique (department-specific) pain point and then bring added value for the organization as a whole.
However, Schroeder cautioned startups to take responsibility for delivering on their promises. Many large organizations have faced challenges when past investments in solutions failed to meet expectations. “When anyone in this room makes that promise and doesn't deliver, it hurts the next person sitting in these seats because… we have finite time and finite resources,” Schroeder said.
Additionally, it’s important to remember that most health systems, especially academic systems, are conservative and risk-averse. Such organizations look for upfront evidence that a solution will serve their staff and patients' interests. Pilot programs that show methodical planning and measurable results are more likely to be successful.
"When anyone in this room makes that promise and doesn't deliver, it hurts the next person sitting in these seats because… we have finite time and finite resources." - Brian Schroeder
This systematic approach brings a potential downside. “There’s a tension in terms of the pacing, regarding how we orient these partnerships,” Dr. Cheriff said. Pilots can also be expensive. Cash-strapped health systems are more likely to show interest in pilots that minimize risk and upfront costs for the buyer.
Driving employee buy-in
While large health organizations want solutions that reduce costs and improve value, they may have limited administrative and change management capacity. That’s why startups must target employee buy-in as part of their strategy— to drive adoption for workplace tools or employee benefit offerings.
For example, solutions that streamline back-office procedures may reduce incumbents’ costs and administrative burdens, but startups must also consider that those solutions could impact existing jobs. CEOs can assuage these concerns by recommending proactive strategies to retrain and upskill current staff, ensuring their continued relevance and value to the organization.
And employers who want to introduce new benefit offerings must also be able to engage the relevant employees in their population to use the new technology or service. Getting these patients and users on board is critical for building traction, said Michael Perlmutter, SVP at Lockton, an independent insurance brokerage. “Employee engagement is the number one issue that will determine the success or failure of any innovation,” Perlmutter said.
“Employee engagement is the number one issue that will determine the success or failure of any innovation." - Michael Perlmutter, Senior Vice President at Lockton
Identifying market opportunities
While startups face challenges when partnering with incumbents, there are also immense opportunities. These include consolidating cost and quality data from hospitals, enabling providers to work at the top of their licenses, recruiting and retaining nurses, and streamlining access to specialist services.
AI, for example, could address challenges related to capacity management and access to specialty services, Dr. Cheriff said. Traditionally, these tasks demand a significant investment in front-end staff to coordinate and screen patients. AI could simplify this process and help match patients to subspecialists based on their condition, disease status, individual needs and other demographics.
Schroeder mentioned that incumbents also seek effective back-end solutions, including credential verification and maintenance, physician compensation contract management, prior authorization and insurance processing.
One inspiring example of collaboration is Pip Care, developed together by Redesign Health and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC). The Pip Care platform creates an ideal surgical experience for patients while also easing administrative burdens for clinicians, allowing them to practice at the top of their licenses. Today, Redesign Health and UPMC are expanding their partnership to identify data points that can help improve surgical outcomes, reduce complications and empower patients.
Forging successful partnerships in a dynamic market
Rapid technological advances, escalating costs and administrative hurdles provide both obstacles and opportunities for entrepreneurs. Startups, with their agility and fresh approaches, are ideally positioned to respond to these challenges.
To succeed, startups must understand their buyers’ unique challenges, goals and resources. CEOs who take the time to personalize their approach to each individual incumbent are more likely to build enduring and mutually beneficial relationships.
Redesign Health is building a new paradigm in healthcare innovation. We work closely with operating company CEOs, industry partners and incumbents from ideation through market launch by leveraging the power of our expert advisors and robust knowledge platform. Learn more about how our partnerships are accelerating healthcare change.
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