Healthcare is facing an age of disruption from new market entrants and players outside the traditional healthcare paradigm. Unexpected partnerships are bringing fresh solutions to market and changing how business is done and care is delivered.

Many of these new partnerships are arising in conjunction with innovation investments by hospitals and health systems (HHSs). HHSs have always been a source of significant innovation through research and other avenues, but traditionally this work has been largely decentralized. Today, HHSs are formalizing their innovation efforts and finding ways to capitalize on those opportunities—which are abundant, thanks to HHSs’ physician workforce, research infrastructure, and access to patients and their data. These centralized innovation incubators make it easier for non-traditional players, such as tech companies, to pool resources with an HHS and bring game-changing solutions to market in an expedited fashion.

Whether they occur through an innovation center, cross-industry ventures in the healthcare sphere are still in their infancy. As such, they pose a number of challenges that require careful planning and a flexible mindset.

Vet Your Opportunities Thoroughly

In today’s push for value-driven transformation, HHSs and other health industry stakeholders have hundreds if not thousands of opportunities for partnerships knocking on their door. Diverse players, from tech vendors to start-ups to private equity firms, are queuing up for a chance to participate in the burgeoning health sector.

Faced with these abundant—and often novel—opportunities, HHSs have the task of sorting through their options and developing an efficient process to vet, select and pursue them. Too many choices is a good problem to have, but HHSs nonetheless face challenges as they determine the best way to triage potential partnerships and ventures. Key infrastructure components at HHSs include education of and buy-in by governing board, development of investment guidelines that align with mission, and building the innovation structure and team (often with contributors who come from outside of “traditional healthcare”). Once that infrastructure has been established, the HHS will be able to evaluate and pursue innovative ventures better and faster, in turn bringing solutions to market and to patients more quickly.


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As the health industry evolves to meet consumer expectations for better quality, lower-cost and more convenient health care options, the demand for technology-driven innovation is accelerating as is the level of interest and investment among stakeholders or all sorts.

Health systems and other institutional providers are playing a more active investment role in the commercialization of biomedical, digital health, and other important health care discoveries in order to remain competitive, secure their positions as industry leaders and generate growth opportunities. This more active role also affords their internal innovators (e.g., physicians and scientists) to play a meaningful role in accelerating the commercialization of home-grown discoveries that may otherwise be left in “the valley of death” between government-funded basic research and later stage, industry-funded commercialization. Drug and medical device manufacturers, venture capital, private equity firms, large donors and other investors are injecting significant capital into fueling research, development and commercialization of health care technology innovation. On the one hand, health care systems and providers welcome such external co-investors who bring sophisticated expertise in product and market research, technology innovation, valuation and strategy capabilities, as well as access to networks of potential co-investors. For such external co-investors, on the other hand, joining forces with health care institutions affords much needed access to the expertise and thought leadership of clinicians, scientists and health technology innovation; a ready‑made proving ground and “anchor customer” for the product; and the halo effect of the health care provider around the co-investor’s clinical care and research reputation. The theory and the hope is that the combined capital and the different, but complementary, expertise, experience and perspectives of such co‑investors provides a formula for financially successful innovation that is transformative and not merely disruptive.
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