With many digital health startups and growth-stage organizations looking to sell services and products to large, enterprise health systems, differentiation can be difficult and building a strong partnership is critical. In a recent discussion with Rock Health, Brian Carter, SVP of Product at Validic™ and Angie Stevens, executive director of Virtual Care at Kaiser Permanente, discussed the partnership between their organizations, best practices, and lessons learned in building one of the largest remote monitoring programs in the nation. As they iterate on successes and continue to build this relationship, they have developed a series of best practices for application both within and outside of their partnership.

Picking the right partner and balancing priorities

One major key for a successful partnership, according to Carter, is to ensure you are partnering with an organization that understands the roles and limitations within the partnership and will support your long-term success as a growth-stage company.

“[A partner must] be an organization that can iterate quickly and that’s committed to actually adopting the things you develop quickly,” said Carter. “And, they also must be reasonable and understand that even with nearly infinite development resources, we’re still not going to be able to develop everything we think of.”

Stevens agrees – growth-stage organizations must be protective of their time. “Be conscientious [that] you only dedicate a certain amount of your energy to these big fish, because the little fish will move faster – and you’ll get some good data that can help move the big fish along,” said Stevens. “If you put 80% of your effort into these big fish, that’s too much risk.”

“This [enterprise client] may be bigger than any other client you’ve sold, but they’re not bigger than every other client combined,” said Carter. “So you’ve got to keep your eye on the big picture.”

Carter notes that this does result in conversations between the Validic and Kaiser Permanente teams in which they determine which things can and cannot be prioritized or in which they determine a mutually-agreeable timeline. Good partners understand this balance for both sides.

“When you select partners to work with,” says Carter, “Make sure to find ones that understand that your long-term viability and success is in their best interest.”

Finding the right use case

In order to build a successful, long-lasting relationship, Stevens and Carter agreed that it’s important to find the right starting point for a solution – one that can encourage iterations upon success and can scale across the enterprise.

Growth-stage organizations must be confident in the scalability of their solution, not only in terms of the technology but also from an operational standpoint. For Validic and Kaiser Permanente, there was an opportunity, because Validic’s solution was well-supported both in terms of the technology and the security. Though Kaiser Permanente considered building their own solution for data-driven remote monitoring, Stevens noted that the task of creating and maintaining an engineering team to support the program would require a large uplift and distract from the larger goal. So, the partnership was a good fit to support Kaiser’s larger goal of delivering a remote monitoring program that could treat total health more effectively.

To determine what is priority in beginning a program that’s planned for scale, Stevens said her team looked at industry data and conducted conversations with physicians internally to see where she could find sufficient buy-in to a new solution.

Similarly, Carter’s team considered whether the solution would also be appropriate and enticing for the larger market. “We created a venn diagram of the things science says should be important, the people that want to use it, and our ability to develop and deploy,” said Carter. “Those three things come together to make a priority.”

Building for Scale

“When it comes to identifying what kind of work you’re going to do with an organization, make sure it has a definitive scope and a definitive timeline and going back to what you’re going to measure,” said Stevens on the necessary metrics that a growth-stage organization should be prepared for.

And, she adds, this allows a smaller organization to collect use cases and examples to bring back for other clients.

“If you’re deciding to make that big swing with a big organization, make sure that you’ve proven your technology can scale,” said Stevens. “If possible, don’t do pilots, but look at a smaller use case that we can start with, so we don’t put all our eggs in one basket.”

Together, partners can iterate on successes, and learn lessons to bring along during periods of growth, to build the most effective solutions.

How effective partnerships build success

Ultimately, Carter states, a partner is an organization that doesn’t just buy your product, but one that will collaborate with you in growth to create a mutually beneficial relationship.

“As recently as today, I had two members of the product team on the phone with two members of Angie’s team. Two weeks ago, I was out in [Kaiser Permanente’s] Denver office along… to talk about the next big hill we want to take with this strategy,” said Carter. “We literally filled the whiteboard with sticky notes and ideas that we’re going to work on together.” Partnerships mean constant communication and collaboration on strategy to build solutions that not only work for the client organization, but for the larger industry.

“My team is always thinking, “how do we take all this input and meet the needs of this particular partner in front of us – but also create a solution that other clients would want to buy?” said Carter.

To learn more about the Validic and Kaiser Permanente partnership, and how growth-stage organizations can see success with large health systems, listen to the podcast here.

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