How can we collaborate across digital health communities?

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How can we collaborate across digital health communities?

Innovation is becoming increasingly dependent on the infrastructure established by health systems. Sharing best practices seems like an obvious way for health systems to improve how they leverage and incorporate digital innovation into their clinical practice but, by and large, it isn’t happening.

Instead, many health systems focus their efforts on monopolizing specific markets. They work in silos, seek success on their own, and dismiss collaboration altogether.

Digital health ecosystems would also benefit from increased communication. A startup in Boston may have insights that benefit a startup in Houston, and an entrepreneur in Denver might be able to make a valuable corporate connection for a startup in Miami. And yet, instead of joining forces when possible, many communities operate in ignorance of one another’s efforts.

While competition can drive innovation, health systems and startups have shared goals that they could work toward together. All players involved want to improve patient care, and, as part of that effort, they seek to build and integrate new digital health technologies into clinical practice. Competition may spur momentum, but collaboration will make these shared goals more achievable.

Digital health ecosystem players

It’s been trendy to discuss breaking down silos between healthcare organizations by increasing interoperability.  To this end, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) is consulting and advising health systems across the country and promoting health information exchange.

We aren’t yet, however, discussing the need to build communication between digital health ecosystems across the country so that the drivers of digital health innovation can start conversations, share information, and open doors for one another. We aren’t discussing the need to build communication and collaboration between all of the players in a single digital health ecosystem and across ecosystems, including:

  • Entrepreneurs
  • Accelerators and incubators
  • Local and federal government
  • Local venture firms
  • Local hospitals
  • Community evangelists
  • University research organizations
  • Healthcare giants

But we can start those conversations now.

Collaboration starts in digital health communities

To start, let’s get to know the digital health communities across the country.

Digital health innovators are usually rooted in larger digital health ecosystems where they receive their first bit of encouragement and ultimately grow their idea in a supportive environment.

Because digital health ecosystems are hotspots of innovation, it is important that more established members of a community such as health systems and healthcare giants understand what’s happening locally at the startup and venture level so they can be a part of those conversations.

It’s also important for the people and entities involved in a digital health ecosystem to communicate across with people and entities in other digital health ecosystems — such as between the communities of Chicago and Boston — to see how they can further each other’s progress.

Over the coming months, I will be working directly with the ONC to partner with various innovation groups across the country and to learn how innovation is being conducted within not only large-scale institutions, but specific innovation hubs. We plan to interview the key players and stakeholders in each region to better understand the actions they have taken (and plan to take) to grow a digital health ecosystem.

In a series of posts, we will spotlight digital health ecosystems in Houston, Boston, Denver, Miami, Los Angeles, New York, Nashville, Chicago, and San Francisco.

This series will give each region the opportunity to showcase their best practices, celebrate their successes, and highlight opportunities for involvement. We believe it will shine an invaluable light on the current state of digital health and offer incredible opportunities for learning and collaboration between technologists, medical institutions, researchers, entrepreneurs and the government for the betterment of healthcare.


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