August 14, 2018

Health System Investment - Three Lessons from Boston Children's Hospital & A Case Study of Success

Hanna Phelan

It was reported that an estimated 60% of digital health startups funded in 2017 were selling directly to providers, in comparison to 15% focused on the biopharma market. This may seem unsurprising given the resounding agreement that any innovation, or shift of the needle in improved access to care, without health system buy-in will ultimately flop in the long term. But don't get your hopes up just yet - ultimately that 60% doesn't represent products that hospitals are willing and ready to buy off the shelf.

Last week, we took a look at Kaiser Permanente's approach to engaging with some of these solutions largely through their investment arm - but Kaiser only represents one point on the spectrum of health system approaches to digital health investment and engagement. This week, we spoke with the team at Boston Children's Hospital to get a handle on their approach, leveraging in-house clinical expertise and world-class partnerships.

Boston Children's Hospital formed their in-house accelerator program in 2016. In a single year, the program engaged more than 300 clinicians, researchers and administrators in more than 25 clinical departments, offering custom, “just in time” support. Nine projects were accelerated, including three new startups which have raised over $13m in venture funding. A central tactic is the “Opportunity SPRINT,” a 90-minute triage session that brings hospital teams together with business strategists, subject matter experts, technologists and, sometimes, parents and patients.

Here are three key takeaways from our conversation with Carla Small, Senior Director of the Innovation and Digital Health Accelerator (IDHA) at Boston Children's Hospital and a case study example of a success story rooted in the Boston Children’s Hospital Series A investment in Circulation Health who offers a HIPAA-compliant, digital platform to coordinate convenient and reliable non-emergency transportation for all areas of healthcare.

3 Lessons from the Boston Children’s Hospital Innovation Team

1. Providers Invest in Solutions Supporting Their Long Term Strategy'

'Our digital health goals are completely tied to our long-term mission and strategy. At the enterprise or strategic level, we set the priorities in terms of what therapeutic or delivery methods we want to focus on in line with our overall mission at the hospital.''

2. Leave Room for Opportunistic Interventions

''To date, we have focused a lot on telehealth, virtual visits, remote monitoring and in addition to that we look for those opportunities that emerge less predictably like Circulation. Our strategic goals as an enterprise drive our digital health investments at the same time we do have this grassroots accelerator that allows us to take advantage of opportunistic inventions that are coming through from the broader ecosystem or the hospital - it really allows us to anticipate or respond to trends, particularly with the help of partnerships in industry.''

3. Look Beyond Conventional Borders

''We don't only focus on ideas that come from within the hospital but also recognize how valuable external partnerships are. We work with startups who are trying to understand how their solution fits into a real hospital setting and then larger partnerships with big organizations like GE Healthcare, Amazon, and Cerner. We are really interested in partnerships that will help scale solutions in a broader ecosystem.''

A Case Study of Provider Investment Success - Circulation and Boston Children's Hospital

Boston Children’s Hospital Series A investment in Circulation Health, who offers a HIPAA-compliant, digital platform to coordinate convenient and reliable nonemergency transportation for all areas of healthcare, is a great example of a provider successfully engaging with a promising solution to bring them one step closer to realising their long term organisational objectives.

Take a look at the following slide show to get an inside look at the Circulation partnership through the eyes of John Brownstein CIO of Boston Childrens's and Co-founder of Circulation.


Through the creation of the Innovation and Digital Health Accelerator, Boston Children’s reinforces a commitment to, and investment in pediatric innovation combining data, clinical expertise, and health care technology development experience, with leading worldwide industry partners – including start-ups – to transform health care.

Feel free to reach out with any feedback or questions at - I'd be delighted to continue the conversation!