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Jump-starting population health management

Ken Terry | Aug. 22, 2016
Aurora Health Care, a healthcare system with 15 hospitals and over 150 clinics, has just entered the second phase of an effort to use startup software developers to create the applications it needs for population health management.

In any event, the nuts and bolts of integrating apps don’t concern Simons as much as security does. He points out that Aurora has a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy under which employees using personal devices are allowed to access enterprise systems via the Internet and a virtual private network connection.

“If an app is web-enabled, we can allow users to use it on their devices,” he notes. “But if it’s a native app running on iOS or Android, it will likely need to be a corporate-owned device so we keep our environment secure.”

Aurora already has an innovations group that collaborates with its IT department on pilots of new applications. When Aurora begins working with developers that responded to the call for innovations, “we’ll pilot and scale [the apps], so we’ll have the advantage of giving them a real kind of testing platform for what they have,” Simons says. “At the same time, we can meter it through our environment, to make sure it’s going to do what we and they think it’s going to do.”

This is a plus for startups, which can benefit from the feedback and may see their product adopted if the pilot succeeds. “Having that first customer is very important, because nobody wants to go first in healthcare,” Kuhnen says. “That’s a significant hurdle to overcome, and it’s a major advantage for having a healthcare organization on board and possibly investing in the startup.”

On the other hand, startups have a very high failure rate, and focusing too narrowly on one customer is one reason why many fail. Some startups do a superb job of keeping their first customer happy,” Kuhnen says. “But they tailor their solutions so closely to the problems and the prejudices of that first customer organization that they have a hard time finding traction in the broader market and building to scale.”

That’s an issue that any healthcare provider that thinks about investing in startups should consider. It’s important to give a startup a chance and the help it needs to create a viable product, but, Kuhnen adds, “you don’t want to tie their hands so strongly that they build something that only applies to their first customer.”


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