Healthcare Pilots: Insightful CIO Tips No Startup Should Ignore

Want to know the secrets to landing your first healthcare pilot? Several of the nation’s top healthcare CIOs have shared valuable tips for startups. Some, you may have already guessed, while others may send you back to the drawing board for your next pilot pitch.

Tip #1: Focus on advice instead of price

When you’re driving transformation, one of the things is continuity. You don’t want to [start] a relationship in the build phase and say, you know, here, let me understand how you do business, and then hand that off to someone else,” Chris Belmont, VP & CIO at the UT MD Anderson Cancer Center.

When attempting to partner with a hospital, if the goal is purely financially supported and motivated, success will be limited. Funds and resources are not easily available or bountiful. Approach the hospital with a clear vision of the role you and the hospital will be taking, as well as the benefit to the organization. A relationship built on advice instead of price will fundamentally differentiate you from other sellers. A strategy based on funds alone is not a viable plan and will not successfully position you for a prosperous, longer-term partnership.

Tip #2: Align with the hospital’s main goal: caring for patients

The biggest innovation challenge we foresee as healthcare changes from volume to value is engaging our patients more on their terms. Our teams are working on determining where patients want to seek care, and where they are able to seek care,” Marc Chasin, MD, MMM, CPE, CHCIO – St. Luke’s Health System.

Vendor and hospital incentives must align so that the hospital’s goal of providing the highest quality of effective patient care is achieved. Misalignment can lead to inefficiency, increased costs, and even compromised care. Beyond alignment in patient care, synchronized financial and clinical improvement goals will lead to a well-rounded partnership that will show proper affiliation with strategy, culture, and clinical practices. To maximize and optimize these goals and ensure pilot scalability, which should be the goal for both the entrepreneur and hospital, it is essential to define clear success metrics upfront, assure buy-in at the appropriate levels in the hospital, as well as track and report metrics on a regular basis.

Tip #3: Demonstrate credibility and sustainability

We want to have any [technology or service] we work with to have broad deployment and big effect within our health system within three years. So that means we’re mostly looking for series B or C companies that have their first two to ten reference customers that demonstrate the [product or service] actually works, and [confirms] the business model, and all the rest of it,” Molly Joel Coye, MD, MPH, Former Chief Innovation Officer, UCLA Health.

So many ideas are based on current industry needs that can prove perilous in the eyes of hospital leaders due to a lack of possible foresight. Sustainability needs to be considered, so show healthcare systems that you have the research to back up your product or service. Of course, there will always be potential risk to a healthcare system by integrating a new pilot, but you can mitigate these concerns to the best of your ability by showing that you have considered what lies ahead and have a business plan to back it up. Whether that is properly positioning yourself to capitalize on future opportunities or acculturating to organizational needs such as cost reduction, your business must show that it has what is required to survive and thrive for years to come.

 Tip #4: Solve real health system problems

One thing that’s critical, is to have a unique solution to solve a real problem. It’s never technology for technology’s sake, but at the point that we understand your solution solves a problem and that we have that problem, even though we haven’t addressed it yet, then we’re all ears,” Sue Schade, MBA, FCHIME, FHIMSS, Chief Information Officer at University of Michigan Hospitals and Health Centers.

If you want to build a successful partnership with a hospital system, you must solve one of their bigger problems. Huge opportunities exist in healthcare for those who have innovative, creative and cost-effective solutions. Advancements in telemedicine, global healthcare, cybersecurity, and robotics are just a few areas that healthcare is determined and desperate for. Your solution needs to be scalable and have the ability to improve the workflow of an entire organization leading to enhanced population health. The most successful healthcare partnerships are born out of the intersection of a passion and a necessity — make it your personal mission to be the change healthcare demands.

The Pilot Pitch: Presentation Tips from a Payer’s Perspective

We talk to companies that say they are in prototype or final phase of testing. We look at those companies with a different lens. Do they have a true understanding of the space in which they’re playing? Do they have a sales and marketing plan that will get the [technology] into hands of people who will actually use it at the end of the day? Do they look like they have a credible road ahead of them? And, is it smart for us to jump in and start a group concept or pilot with them?” Simon Jones – Vice President of HIT Product Strategy at Blue Shield of California.

  • Pitches will vary but with the economic and federal pressures experienced by hospitals, it is imperative a properly communicated business model displays fresh and creative ways to improve outcomes and reduce overhead costs.
  • Be honest and open about the road ahead of you. If potential pitfalls aren’t communicated, potential solutions can’t be implemented.
  • Bring all of your results and case studies to show successes that have been achieved independently. Even if you don’t have case studies and impressive metrics for your technology, frame your company narrative in a way that allows healthcare organizations to see that you understand the market. If you had to pivot, communicate why, what was learned, and how that change has put you in a better position going forward.

The opportunity for success has never been greater than during this seismic healthcare industry change from volume to value, but putting your best pilot forward is crucial to reap the rewards. Securing a hospital pilot is no simple feat. To learn first-hand what healthcare leaders want, need and require in a pilot or innovation project, take a moment to download the Innovation Series eBook and learn at the feet of healthcare’s top CIOs.

Here’s an infographic that you can use for easy reference:

healthcare software companies infographic

Travis Good

Travis Good, M.D., MBA, MS is CEO and co-founder of Catalyze, Inc . He is a speaker, blogger and expert in healthcare technology, specifically HIPAA compliance and security issues involved with healthcare innovation. Connect with Travis on Twitter: @travisjgood