The real-world effects of digital health: Announcing the Impact Project

Written by Mollie McDowell


Beyond the three trillion dollars of healthcare spend in our economy, beyond the political tug of war in Washington, the heart of the healthcare conversation should be about the individuals and families touched by illness, injury—and innovation. The political news cycle, investment hype cycle, and the cynicism they can bring often distract from the huge change taking place in healthcare today.

Rock Health’s mission is to make healthcare massively better for every human being. We do this by supporting and investing in companies that improve healthcare using technology—digital health. After seven years, we’ve seen $23B invested into thousands of digital health companies. But we wanted to know: what has been the real-world impact of digital health? What is the effect of companies that prioritize the patient experience? So we asked our portfolio companies to share their impact on peoples’ lives. We were overwhelmed to learn just how many people have been changed by their work, by this new wave of health technology.

Today we’re announcing we have launched the Impact Project. We aim to shift the digital health dialogue from one focused primarily on the degree of investment and future expectations to one about digital health’s effect on patients and healthcare outcomes. We have found that in healthcare, those two things (real-world impact and financial strength) are inextricably linked. In that spirit, this ongoing project brings you stories of people living far outside Silicon Valley and the companies shifting the healthcare status quo who have made an impact on their lives.

Each of their stories is unique, as are their backgrounds, ages, and health experiences. They’re a mix of digital natives and novices. They come from states across the country—Arizona, Florida, New York, Texas, California. Some sought help outside a traditional healthcare system that failed them, while others encountered digital health within the four walls of a hospital. Despite their differences, their stories have striking similarities. Among these is the way novel, digital health technology quickly faded into the background, and the human experience shined brighter.

These stories showed us not only the massive change a few dedicated people can make in the lives of patients, but also the deep collaboration required of people across many industries in order to make healthcare cheaper, faster, healthier—better. Though the venture community regularly measures impact in terms of venture dollars raised, that’s obviously the wrong metric of success. Our portfolio and track record show that a focus on impact, on tangible health outcomes for everyday people and on economic value for the healthcare system, works as an investment strategy.

The Impact Project is also meant as a guiding light for why we at Rock Health, our portfolio companies, and our partners work in healthcare—and why every person is a stakeholder in the success of digital health innovation.