How Startups Can Connect With Payers and Other Key Players
How can startups connect with payers and other key health players? These four US-based stakeholders explain how they connect with entrepreneurs and their various types of “front doors.”
Zain Ismail, Principal Transformation Consultant, Strategic Support Services, Henry Ford Health System
Mahek Shah, MD, Project Director & Senior Researcher, Harvard Business School
Gautam Gulati, MD, MBA, MPH
Aaron Feierstein, Sr. Corporate Development Advisor, Healthworx, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield
Transcript with timestamps (click here)
Zain Ismail, Principal Transformation Consultant, Strategic Support Services, Henry Ford Health System [00:10]
We have many front doors to procure innovation at Henry Ford and they’re not all perfect doors yet— we’re working on it. The first and most obvious one is actually through supply chain. We have a website that you can go to to register who you are, what your company does, what your innovation can bring. And that then creates a searchable database for us when we’re looking to solve a problem.
The second is through our Innovation Institute, which, again, really looks at doing getting into co-development relationships with early-stage startups that could then lead to a sale and deployment in the rest of our system, but it’s not a guarantee.
And then thirdly, the third big door is really just through our different networks. So we are part of the AVIA innovation network, which has 41 different provider-based institutions that are members across the United States, and we really look to them to help us understand, “what are the emerging companies? What are the opportunities that map out onto the pain points that we have?” Along with that we do have a more local one, which is the Detroit–Windsor med-health innovation cluster, which is sort of our local network where we take referrals from and we’ll meet with different companies.
Mahek Shah, MD, Project Director & Senior Researcher, Harvard Business School [01:13]
I spend a lot of my time teaching executives, advising health systems, governments and companies around the future healthcare delivery. And that requires me to be available everywhere. And so my front door is a virtual front door, where to really engage with me is to show me what you’re doing and where you’re succeeding and where you’re failing when it comes to your journey towards a value-based healthcare system. And where you need help. I think defining the problem to me is important. And being able to articulate not only the value proposition that you bring to a healthcare system, but also how you plan to change it and transform the healthcare system is important for me to know.
Gautam Gulati, MD, MBA, MPH [01:54]
I don’t necessarily think that there’s a front door for me, I think it’s sort of the third door: the back door. There’s this great book written by Alex Banayan called The Third Door and he talks about how great leaders and innovators, to make their products and services successful, have realized that there’s a third-door approach, which is understanding, sort-of, the back way of getting involved.
Very rarely have I actually ever seen any value through cold outreach. So most of the times, it comes through referrals are people that I trust and know. And I think very similar to how the VC world operates, because they’re bombarded with so many different opportunities that oftentimes they rely on their networks to recommend certain products or investment opportunities for them. I think the same is the case for innovation.
So as I ran innovation divisions and carved out spaces for different organizations, oftentimes a lot of the value or companies that I saw in the startup space came from referrals from other individuals. And that was the most critical factor there, because how do you sift through all of the products that are out there? And also, it gives you a sense of a little bit of a hustle. In reality, we’re all two, three degrees away from each other, especially in healthcare. It’s a very small world.
And so I’m very open. Things like my LinkedIn profile are available to me. I’ve got hundreds and hundreds of connections. So it’s very easy for someone just to go on there and be like, hey, this individual, we have this individual in common, or this friend in common, and to take that effort at that time to go down that route shows, you know, sort-of a hustle approach and sort-of a very motivated approach for an individual versus just the cold outreach. I oftentimes very, very much ignore any of the cold outreaches that I receive.
And the other thing is, make yourself noticeable. I think a lot of organizations and startups just sort of blend in with some of the other startups that are out there. And I think, “get yourself noticed!” We’re around, we’re observing. We’re at different incubators and facilities like the MaRS Innovation Centre and a number of other places. So once we’re there, how do you stand out?
Aaron Feierstein, Sr. Corporate Development Advisor, Healthworx, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield [03:49]
Typically, when we connect with innovators, we’re leveraging our network for the most part. And then conferences are a big place for us to connect with innovators.
When we think about our network, I encourage entrepreneurs to use their investors, use their customers and understand who they have connections with, since that’s the best way that we get referrals for the Healthworx team to vet opportunities. And then conferences, meeting with startups at conferences—you know, whether it’s through the partnering platforms or, you know, reaching out in advance of the conference, as long as the solution is focused on our focus areas, those are the ones that we’ll reach out to.