Public Private Partnerships: What Healthcare Startups Need to Know

In this public health pandemic, the P3 model of public private partnerships in many ways has been what has sustained a lot of governmental effort. Take for example the issue of social isolation, especially in older adults. Some older adults who used to be able to go to senior centers and who used to be able to see their friends and family were now literally cooped up in their homes, sometimes with a loved one, sometimes by themselves. We’ve seen a lot of companies and startups say, hey, we have a product, how do we work with an agency to roll that out? So, let’s take a look at how startups can help.


Public-Private Partnerships in Healthcare SaaS Startups

By Geoffrey M. Roche, Fellow - The National Leadership Academy For The Public’s Health

There are six main ways that startups can get involved in the future of digital health.

Get involved

The first thing that a startup has to do is get involved, and not just in the manner of ‘I want to sell my product,’ or ‘I want your business’ type of thing. It's organic.

Most states have set up committees or task forces where individuals from all industries are brought together to help address some of these more pressing issues. In some cases, that could be on the community economic development side, where they looked at making sure early on in the pandemic that we had enough masks. I regularly hear from different startups saying, "hey, my business can do mobile vaccination." And the first thing I always say to them is, "where were you several months ago?" You need to be involved earlier in the process so it doesn't look like you're just there to sell something.

Understand your mission

The mission component is important. You need to tie that in so that if you're dealing with government or with a health system or an entity in business, it's important that they see you are truly invested in the cause.

When I counsel organizations, startups, or leaders, I always say, "you've got a mission, you've got a story, you bring that passion and that ingenuity." You need to get plugged into the right place. You should share your passion and ingenuity, but do it in a way that adds value to the conversation and to the cause.

Build relationships

It's important that you are in front of the influencers and stakeholders. Health care systems have realized that they need to have a leader and a team that's focused on innovation, transformation, and the constant change and evolution that's required. It’s important to communicate with those teams and people.

In my health system days, when I regularly represented our health care system in the community, I saw great success at the Chambers of Commerce networking events. I would have other executive leaders, new people, new startups, or businesses come in and say, "hey, you represent this health care system; I have a product I'd like to show you." Oftentimes I would bring them in for a demonstration, but the key is to always do your homework.

Think about how you can engage with those leading health care systems. Oftentimes startups miss an opportunity because they could be a part of that effort by sharing their expertise. At some point you may have an opportunity to take that to the next level. I learned about many startups in my health care career through public-facing work. It gave them the opportunity to come up to us. Honestly, I prefer that over a cold call any day. Obviously, we're still mostly remote in these times, so that adds a little bit of a challenge. But I think, again, doing everything you can to find opportunities to engage in is more effective than a cold call or a cold email. Use your network, like LinkedIn, to help open some doors.

Do your research

As much as possible, be sure to do your homework on why you want to work with a given health care system. Health care has been so prone to having so many organizations reach out to them all the time and say, "hey, I got this product, let's do business together." But that's not how health care works.

I'll give you an example. I was talking to a health care system that has built an internal innovation team. They have internal folks that are leading service lines like sleep medicine or digestive health, and they will come to that innovation team and say, "hey, we've got this great service line, but we are missing the technology that's going to allow us to take it to the next level." The innovations team is going to be immediately thinking about who in the ecosystem can help deliver that. That's where startups come in.

I can't tell you how many startups would come in and their presentation was not effective. They clearly didn't do their research in advance. And if I set you up for a meeting with the CIO, I expect that the presentation is going to be really good. My advice to startups is, "if you're going to get that meeting after you've had maybe a networking interaction, you go in with the most effective, polished presentation and you demonstrate that you have researched everything that you can get from a public facing website." Be prepared to not only answer every question, but to impress every individual in that room, because there's a lot of other people out there that they could choose to do business with, and you of course want it to be you.

Localize your deck

Localizing your presentation is so important. Make sure that when you go in, it's not just the deck that you have prepared and shared with every possible entity, which is often unfortunately, what I see. So if your deck is on behavioral health, you're going to get data from that county. I can tell you that localizing the presentation adds credibility from the start. When you're talking about how to engage with larger organizations that may have the capital or the resources to build it themselves, you again want to come at it from the vantage point of how do you come in as a value add? Because Iarger organizations may be of the mindset that they could build it on their own, but often times they may not truly have the talent. If you're able to get a foot in the door and have that conversation, articulate that you're going to work just as if you were an employee of the organization. The work you do is going to be integrated within all of the members of the team.

Understand your value add

This is really important because when you think about the risk averse culture within health care, they don't like to lose control. If you look at the health care models of the 80s and 90s and even today, they don't like to lose control. If they do a contract, they want to still make sure that they have the management of that contract so they can eliminate the risks and they can see that it's a successful thing. The key there is articulating right off the bat how this is a value add and that you’re going to work full integration with your team and have outputs that are expected and agreed upon, and have measures to that. Again, do your homework. If it's an organization that uses lean methodologies, you want to go in with that thinking already and how you're going to approach it. If it's an organization that maybe is not as risk averse and is really more innovative in their approach, you can go in with that type of thinking.

If you have the passion, don't let any obstacles stop you. In what ways has your startup been involved in public private partnerships? We’d love to hear about your products and process. If you are just beginning, we hope this article has provided you with a place to start.

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