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November 21, 2016
Startups: Agile, lean and worth cultivating
By: Anne O'Riordan

Life sciences and healthcare organizations face an uncertain future as the business models that supported them are disrupted by socio-economic, scientific and digital changes.

New Health Digitals challenge traditional players
New market entrants comprised of large digital players (like Apple and Google), traditional players who have pivoted to digital (like IBM Watson Health and Philips Health) and startups seeking to find niches in which they can add and extract value are the New Health Digitals. These are companies that have:

  • An ability to use real world data and advanced analytics, enabled by digital.

  • Relevance in the lives of their customers, who increasingly understand and use devices and sensors in their health management.

  • Pivoted to the patient as old relationships and barriers are circumnavigated by digital.

Attempting to ring fence innovation and own it as the rate of change and complexity in technology ecosystems increase is futile. For traditional players to survive, they must adopt new collaborative cultures and find ways to remain relevant to their customers. Formulating partnerships with startups is one way to do so.

However, some life sciences and healthcare organizations have found working with startups to be challenging. Their reasons include:

  • The plethora of options and the natural volatility inherent in new experimental companies.

  • Internal restrictions around procurement and risk.

  • Organizational innovation from within tends to be incremental not disruptive.

Why work with startups?
To take advantage of the new digital economies and navigate the new digital world, organizations must overcome these barriers. They must also recognize that partnering with startups is worth the effort. Startups, in turn, need the scale and expertise that is baked into traditional life sciences and healthcare organizations. This makes collaboration a win for both parties.

Startups find small gaps, take root and grow. Unencumbered by existing cost burdens, they are agile and lean in nature and able to develop highly targeted solutions that are disease-specific, therapeutic-specific and patient-focused. Their small size and agility means they can also apply speed and dexterity to the development of new solutions. And they have access to new technologies, philosophies and attitudes around customer expectations.

They understand that patients, healthcare providers and payers live in a world of liquid (ever changing) expectations—where direct experiences compete equally with perceptual experiences, and where the apps and services we use are personal and meaningful, carried with us at all times and baked into our everyday lives.

As more and more newcomers enter this space, partnering with startups could be the edge traditional life sciences and healthcare organizations need to remain competitive and relevant. Accenture’s HealthTech Challenge links health technology start-ups to the industry to facilitate ideas exchange and provides rapid routes for great ideas to make a difference in the broader population of patient’s lives.

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