August 14, 2018

Where are providers investing in digital health? Reviewing Kaisers’ approach

Commentary
Hanna Phelan

In short, a lot. Aspirations of health system leaders and the actual investment and implementation of digital health solutions are two very different things in 2018. But real change takes time - particularly in a system as complex and delicate as healthcare.

2017 has been the biggest funding year yet, with $5.8B invested and the most mega deals ($100M+) to date with payers and providers significantly increasing their investments year on year. Hospitals and health systems are investing in private markets through either direct investments or their associated investment vehicles.

We recently completed a high level analysis of where health systems are investing directly in digital health companies.

In this post, we’ll give a flavour by focusing on one health system, Kaiser Permanente, who are finding their stride in digital health investment and partnerships and the one to watch as the community continues to collaborate for outcomes and share learnings.

Kaiser Permanente has designated innovation arms who are busy investing in and evaluating best opportunities in line with their system's overall strategy. Where they differ to many health systems is when it comes to the scale of their designated investment arm. Kaiser Ventures alone has disclosed over 60 investments since 2001 from pharmacy kits, to telemedicine, and genomics.

Kaiser Ventures have been involved in notable investment rounds such as Validic's Series B in 2015 of $12.5M, Ginger.io's Series B in 2014 of $20M and in the same year Omada's Series B of $20M. Overall, 30% of their disclosed investments are Series B.

There is also a common thread when it comes to evidence and investment. Omada, Proteus and Ginger.io are examples who have all engaged with academic medical institutions to rigorously investigate their solutions. See some of their published studies and research collaborators below.

So what are some of the key points to focus on as a provider entering the space or partner looking to gain investment from a health system after this quick look at Kaiser? Firstly, health service providers will never abandon their need for evidence-based activities. For start-ups make sure you have the patience to engage in research collaborations and have your evidence at the ready to prove your clinical efficacy.

Secondly, as health systems and health system collaborators learn from the successes and mistakes of those with dedicated venture arms and innovation departments who are setting the precedent for the masses who will inevitably follow.

And lastly make sure there is a clear internal strategy and longer term innovation pathway from pilot to scale that digital health investments align with. There is an ingrained concern around increasing unnecessary burden and costs - spend time sharing learnings and helping.

Real and sustained change in healthcare will be impossible without health system investments but we shouldn’t expect there monetary investment to come without a focus on outcomes and evidence.