No. 1 thing to seek in an innovation investment? Mayo Clinic, Northwell & 4 other systems answer

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As more health systems make investments in digital health startups to help address unmet needs in the healthcare industry, it is imperative that their selection process have a clear strategy.

Below, executives from five health systems explain what they look for in an innovation investment.

Maneesh Goyal. Chief Operating Officer at the Mayo Clinic Platform (Rochester, Minn.). We focus on strategic investment opportunities from all angles that can help address the unmet needs of the patients. This is our primary guiding principle. In addition, when looking at an investment in a new technology or company, we want to be sure that they are solving a problem that needs a solution as opposed to a solution in search of a problem. We then apply other criteria, such as their product management expertise, competitive landscape, market size, etc.

We invest in partners that are bold and can help us transform healthcare together by producing ideas and capabilities that not only lead the market, but oftentimes create it. This is why we invested in Medically Home, to implement and scale the hospital at home model, and nference to help us discover new cures through data federation and de-identification at scale.

But in my 20 years’ experience in investing, I observed that winners tend to have two things in common: keen understanding of market timing and patience.

Chris Coburn. Chief Innovation Officer at Mass General Brigham (Boston). The investment candidate has a viable commercial model and demonstrably solves a problem or creates an opportunity in a way that providers will readily adopt the technology and thereby enable the company to increase its value.

Chris Stenzel. Vice President of Business Development and Innovation at Kaiser Permanente (Oakland, Calif.). When evaluating innovation investments, Kaiser Permanente looks for tools that will drive and enable us to deliver care that is safe and effective, timely and efficient, person-centered, equitable and affordable.

Kaiser Permanente’s telehealth offerings, for example, are an innovation that we continue to invest in. Already a leader in offering a variety of telehealth capabilities for our members and patients, we expanded our virtual capacity at the beginning of the pandemic so that our highly trained clinical teams could continue to safely deliver care. Kaiser Permanente provided approximately 31 million scheduled phone and video visits in 2020 — nearly half (48 percent) of the total ambulatory care visits provided — and saw a 28-fold increase in video visits over 2019, as members embraced telehealth options for safety, quality and convenience.

Kaiser Permanente continues to seek out innovations that will benefit our members and the communities we serve, and provide additional ways for them to receive the right care, at the right time, in the right setting.

Dennis Durbin, MD. Chief Scientific Officer at Nationwide Children’s Hospital (Columbus, Ohio). A hospital environment is a fertile ecosystem for new ideas. Innovators from every corner of the organization have a unique perspective on what can help a patient or a fellow clinician or scientist. Quite often their foresight is focused on a newly identified market need. As a destination hospital that cares for children every day with diseases for which we don’t have effective treatments, we have a responsibility to support the discovery and translation of novel, life-changing therapies for these patients, so innovation investments must rise to meet that responsibility and mission.

The pediatric landscape in the biotechnology arena is rapidly changing, from manufacturing methods to federal regulations. We must continue to adapt, and investment in developing treatments — such as gene therapies, for example — helps to ensure that there is a steady stream of novel therapies coming into the commercial market over the next decade, translating discoveries from our labs to patients’ bedsides.

Nickolas Mark. Managing Director and Partner at Intermountain Ventures (Salt Lake City). Simply put, we look for low-end disruption paired with strong business fundamentals. It is a privilege to partner with early pioneers, creative entrepreneurs and mission-driven organizations focused on new approaches in realizing meaningful, measurable, and positive change across the healthcare landscape for those in our communities that need it most.

John Bosco. Senior Vice President and CIO of Northwell Health (New Hyde Park, N.Y.). Innovation and digital health are at the forefront of Northwell’s strategy and culture. We look for investments in technology which strengthen relationships between our clinicians and patients, and foster richer, data-driven connections between them.  

Investments in consumer technologies help to engage patients within their everyday lives and provide us with rich clinical data to ensure we meet all of our patient’s needs whether during a visit to our healthcare facilities or to help them self-manage their health and wellness at home. 

Northwell Health also partners with organizations to cultivate innovative advancements in digital health. Rather than remaining as standalone solutions, these developments must work within the larger health IT ecosystem and focus on building better, integrated tools for our clinicians to function more efficiently and effectively.

While we also look for investments that can generate a financial return, our primary goal is to promote wellness, give patients and clinicians access to the information they need, and provide the best possible care when required.

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