General Catalyst's Daryl Tol on what the VC firm looks for in hospital partnerships

Daryl Tol has gotten an upfront look at healthcare's digital shift from both the hospital C-suite and as a venture capitalist.

Mr. Tol, the former president and CEO of the Central Florida division of Altamonte Springs, Fla.-based AdventHealth, is now head of health assurance for General Catalyst.

"There was so much I didn't see from my executive office," he told Becker's. "I kind of viewed the massive number of incoming requests to meet with me and share new technologies as a nuisance. There was so much noise. Since I've started here, I've learned so much that I was just flat unaware of and I know my colleagues were unaware of."

General Catalyst has been getting a lot of attention for its recent foray into healthcare. The venture capital firm has been busy partnering with health systems to boost their digital offerings and scooping up former hospital executives like Mr. Tol.

The company also continues to invest a healthy amount of money in digital health startups despite a broader slowdown in that industry.

Features of health system partners

After General Catalyst's most recent — and first international — hospital system collaboration, with U.K.-based Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust, the company plans to finalize five more by the end of the year. Mr. Tol said his firm is looking to team up with a diverse group of healthcare organizations: from urban to rural, nonprofit and for-profit, academic and nonteaching, systems with health plans or in underserved communities.

The first four "health assurance" partners were Philadelphia-based Jefferson Health, Nashville, Tenn.-based HCA Healthcare, Salt Lake City-based Intermountain Healthcare and York, Pa.-based WellSpan Health. Incidentally, the former CEOs of Jefferson and Intermountain both now work for General Catalyst.

Mr. Tol said to think of the collaborations as "adding executive bandwidth in the innovation and transformation space."

"We add our hundreds of companies that we talk to, that insight, that looking around the corner to see what's next on the horizon and what looks like it's going to work," he said. "We bring that into the executive tables of our partners and talk about driving transformation with them."

That might entail collaborating on a totally new invention, scaling a project the health system already has, or bringing in an outside partner from the health tech sphere.

"The effort includes very significant pressure-testing of the health system's strategy versus the health assurance philosophy that we have," Mr. Tol said. "We're not just here to repeat what we hear but to challenge and say, is there a gap? Is there an opportunity to address an element of transformation you haven't thought of? To look for the overlap that exists?"

He said his team is focused on improving integrated access to primary and behavioral healthcare through digital technology, generating insights out of medical data to create more personalized medicine, and making clinical and financial information more transparent to patients.

'Kill the old healthcare model'

While still a hospital leader, Mr. Tol was involved in a then-secret innovation initiative called Project Fulcrum that aimed to "kill the old healthcare model," as he put it at the time.

But he said true disruption in the industry can only happen with the help of hospitals, which are seen as trusted voices and institutions in their communities. He said the majority of health tech startups he works with want to connect with health systems rather than upend their business model.

"We bring the innovative mindset and founders and innovators and create magic in the middle," he said. "That's our bet. And we think that's where real change will come from."

He said he's excited about projects that sprang from General Catalyst's work with Jefferson Health, its earliest collaboration, including healthcare data platform Commure and patient engagement technology Tendo.

"Once we get the full cohort in place, and we start working with them individually, but also gathering together and sharing lessons learned and case studies, we think the ripples will be significant," he said. "So I would just say stay tuned. I think there are some really interesting possibilities as all of these pieces come together."

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