« The Future Is Still Not Here | Main | US Healthcare Spending Waste, Unnecessary Cost, and Fraud »

Healthcare Innovation Models and Accelerators

By Clive Riddle, November 7, 2014

Intermountain Healthcare and Healthbox just announced an interesting healthcare innovation collaboration, with their Innovation at Intermountain Healthcare Initiative. Intermountain is the Utah-based health system non-profit juggernaut with 22 hospitals, 185 clinics, 1,100 employed physicians, and the SelectHealth health plan.

A physical structure in Salt Lake City is being constructed next to Intermountain’s flagship medical center to house the initiative, which includes three components:

  1. The Intermountain Foundry which they state “provides a structured framework for help high-potential employee ideas and near-market concepts become commercial businesses.”
  2. Strategic Investments that “will source companies from the broader healthcare ecosystem and develop partnerships that include investment and potential customer relationships.”
  3. The Healthbox Salt Lake City Accelerator, which launched in September in partnership with Health Equity, Zion’s Bank and BD.

Healthbox sees themselves as a “preeminent source of healthcare innovation and drives actionable collaboration between inventors, entrepreneurs and the healthcare industry.” They have operations in five key markets across the U.S., in addition to London and Tel Aviv, and a portfolio of more than 80 active companies and strategic partnerships with more than 30 healthcare organizations.

Speaking of Accelerators, the just released November issue of Healthcare Innovation News addresses the question “how can healthcare accelerators ensure success in their quest to nurture entrepreneurs and support their startup ventures?” in their Thought Leaders’ Corner. Below are three selected responses to this question from their Thought Leader panel.

Tom Olenzak, Director, Innovation at Independence Blue Cross in Philadelphia says “we believe that the key issue facing healthcare innovators is access to customers. The investment of time, expertise and resources by potential customers is critical to help startups turn their innovative ideas into sustainable businesses and products. That’s why we participate in healthcare accelerator programs, such as DreamIt Health Philadelphia. DreamIt Health puts a focus not only on providing funding, but also on the mentorship and access needed to nurture the startups.  I’ve seen firsthand how access to a customer’s point of view, along with business knowledge and data, can have a direct impact on the success of startups. Last year we provided anonymous claims data to the startup Grand Round Table and these data helped the company to solidify its value proposition, helping doctors find appropriate diagnoses faster and reducing the number of unnecessary tests and treatments. The healthcare industry, as we know it, is experiencing dramatic change, and the future of the industry relies on innovative thinking to overcome our biggest challenges. Healthcare accelerators that establish the perfect blend of entrepreneurial coaching and corporate support are the ones that will be successful in developing ventures that push the envelope, and deliver solutions that provide high-quality, affordable care that patients deserve. The future of our industry depends upon innovation, but the opportunities are endless when you embrace partnership and have the right mix of bright minds. Most accelerators help companies grow, but those that provide access to customers and other decision makers breed startups that develop sustainable and scalable solutions to the most pressing challenges.”

Scott Shreeve, CEO at Crossover Health in California says he believes “the challenge for health accelerators is to nurture disruptive ideas and companies yet remain connected to the needs of healthcare providers and payers. Accelerators are good at incubating consumer-focused, digital health innovations. Exciting for sure, but we don’t always see how these isolated innovations bridge the ongoing divide between consumers and providers, and the realities of our current third-party payer system. This is critical in our view because transforming the costs and quality of care won’t be consumer, provider or payer led, but a powerful mix of all three. Crossover Health works with leading employers to deliver primary care services directly to employees via worksite, near-site and virtual care models. We focus on delivering an exceptional patient experience, which not only develops deep patient/provider relationships but also inspires people to take ownership of their health. Innovative provider-led, care delivery and new direct payment models support our experience-centered approach. And, critical to its success are our discovery and adoption of digital health technologies that create new channels of communication, enable population health analytics and facilitate chronic health management in new and different ways. Accelerators can help ensure the success of their startups by making a strong effort to collaborate with equally disruptive providers, who are working with payers that are willing to think differently about health. It’s the responsibility of the accelerator to match different key players together to yield the greatest opportunities and results. By creating a mutual selection process, accelerators can show the power and values of true technology and market disruption.”    

Jason Wainstein, Principal at Deloitte Consulting in Philadelphia shares that “ensuring success is a lofty quest given the nature of accelerators. Not all ideas will pan out. So it’s not about batting 1000; its about providing the best environment to foster the maturation of concept into a viable business. Four dimensions that are critical for accelerator success are: Maintain the right temperature. Many start-ups are focused on building their product/service offering and can benefit from enhanced structure and commercialization cadence, as well as lessons learned from prior startups. Providing a playbook allows the thought leaders to stay focused on building the business. Perfect the role of super connector. One of the greatest values of an accelerator is connecting startups with industry leaders, potential investors and target distribution channels. The top accelerators work relentlessly at building their networks and actively connecting their portfolio companies to these relationships. Be a talent agent. With top talent in high demand, having a network of highly skilled resources that can be brought to bear on short notice can make the difference between success and failure given how aggressively startups must move. Know the white space. There is no shortage of ventures that pop up to capitalize on the hype of the moment, for example, analytics, patient engagement, chronic disease and remote monitoring—like moths to a light. Knowing the white space within these areas and guiding startups to differentiated positions are critical. Otherwise, young companies risk becoming noise in an overcrowded system. Accelerators must treat each startup as a customer, focus on the four dimensions above and be selective in which ideas are brought into the fold based on cultural and content fit.”

Derek Newell, CEO of Jiff in Palo Alto says that “accelerators, by definition, exist to help develop very early stage companies. At this stage, entrepreneurs must transition their companies from a concept phase to a delivery phase. In order to do this effectively, they need to clearly define their value proposition, product and business model. There are two key ways accelerators can support entrepreneurs in facilitating this process.

First, accelerators should connect entrepreneurs to potential customers. Customers validate the product and let companies know they have a commercially viable concept. Talking to customers is the most important thing a startup can do to refine its value proposition. In addition, customers provide critical feedback on product. For the first time, the venture will understand the problem and their target customer’s’ needs at the level of detail necessary to create a meaningful solution for it. Finally, accelerators can help startups figure out their business models early. Many entrepreneurs coming into the healthcare space lack a deep understanding of the complexities and nuances of the industry. Unless the venture is developing a new technology, there is probably a good reason that the solution doesn’t already exist. Within an accelerator, industry experts can help the entrepreneur identify and understand the stakeholders, existing systems and barriers to entry. The forces inhibiting the adoption of the company’s solution could include technology, regulation, operations and/or sunk costs, just to name a few.

By introducing entrepreneurs to potential customers and helping them better understand the healthcare industry, accelerators can help startups navigate this space and support them as they refine their value proposition, business model and product.”

Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>