The top challenge that startups face is finding a market need, according to Chris Edell, CEO of the “enterprise-startup connector” Elevar. And healthcare technology is a notoriously difficult area for startups to navigate. This is in part due to electronic health records (EHR) companies that have a strong hold on the market, Edell says.
But a dramatic shift is taking place in the healthcare landscape, requiring new approaches to technology and creating opportunities for startups and healthcare organizations to partner in addressing these needs.
That’s the goal of the “Anchor Pilot Partner Program,” a combined effort of Elevar and the healthcare innovation center Cambia Grove, along with CHI Franciscan, a Tacoma, Wash.-based healthcare group. They’re searching for startups that can fill pressing technology needs in the medical field.
The initiative kicked off Wednesday with a Reverse-Pitch Day at Cambia Grove in Seattle, where representatives from CHI Franciscan presented their needs to 200 entrepreneurs and startups. CHI Franciscan consists of 8 hospitals and more than 100 clinics spread across the South Puget Sound area, and the Kitsap and Olympic Peninsulas in Washington state.
As people using the healthcare system shift from being “patients” to “customers,” CHI Franciscan is looking for better ways to engage with patients and manage their needs effectively. According to Tom Kruse, CHI Franciscan’s chief strategy, integration, and innovation officer, “the current [healthcare] business model shouldn’t work.”
That’s because healthcare, unlike other customer-service industries, is struggling to find ways for customers to easily use and engage with their product. “The technology is not set up to create affinity,” Kruse said, adding that their current system is similar to the system you would see in a vet’s office—but dogs are, of course, not people.
This gives rise to two issues CHI Franciscan hopes to address in the program: improving patient management and access, and cultivating patient engagement and loyalty. Specifically, they discussed a more automatic scheduling system and finding a way to easily match patients with available physicians.
The third need, unsurprisingly, is tackling internal bureaucracy. CHI Franciscan’s current internal systems are inefficiently complex, according to Chief Medical Officer Mark Adams. Internal communication, like scheduling operating rooms and recording legal documents, all happens manually on many different channels. Adams said this costs physicians valuable time, and can be very frustrating for patients.
Edell cautioned applicants that the startup mentality often doesn’t mesh well with the medical system. Startups often move at a breakneck speed, while change in medical systems tends to be slow and involves many stages of adaption. He advised applicants to have a very clear proposal for the scope of their project, and to be willing to match their partner’s implementation timeline.
Edell said they expect about 100 applicants, but only a few startups will make it through all three rounds of selection. The winner or winners will partner with CHI Franciscan for a paid pilot of their program. Prospective partners can apply online until Feb. 12, and semi-finalists will advance to the Enterprise Challenge stage in March.