The Thinking Behind our Guide to Partnerships with Health Care Providers

Guest Contributor

By Sasha Buscho


Many digital health products and provider tools require clinical evaluation and testing. In the past, entrepreneurs and clinicians have partnered to test these products with mixed results.  Some pilots have been successful and progressed to large-scale testing and commercialization. Others have been slow to start or unable to launch all together.  Delays in launching a clinical pilot can present a major roadblock for the entrepreneur and the healthcare community, not to mention the patient that would benefit.

This fall, we conducted 22 qualitative interviews in order to answer the question: How can startups and health care providers partner more effectively to pilot and commercialize digital health innovations?  Our sample included digital health entrepreneurs, clinicians, researchers, hospital administrators, investors, patent lawyers, and government representatives. We also distributed an online survey of healthcare providers.

Our interviews captured a wide range of experiences. Some partnerships found easy success; others failed to get a pilot off the ground altogether. Relationship management, privacy, regulatory clearances, legal protection, and fundraising were some common themes that emerged from our findings.

Based on these interviews, we developed The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Partnerships with Health Care Providers in partnership with UCSF.  Our goal was to foster clearer communication between start-ups and health care providers. The guidelines are meant to serve as a starting place for entrepreneurs, with checkpoints, stages, and a timeline.  Long-term, we hope to to formalize a process for entrepreneurs to use when collaborating with providers, not too dissimilar from the way biotech firms have defined development stages for clinical testing.

This document is released as a “living” document, and we hope that it will grow and evolve based on your feedback, which you can share by emailing sasha@rockhealth.org. We look forward to hearing from you!