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Dominique's Desk: Access for entrepreneurs

Dominique Pahud

Access is one of the greatest challenges for entrepreneurs. The obstacle is especially tough for digital health entrepreneurs who are developing solutions for patients, physicians, and hospital networks. Because digital health is such a new sector, there aren’t many models for entrepreneurs to follow when it comes to access. While the current formula – working with an accelerator – can certainly be helpful, the real work happens when entrepreneurs can interact directly with patients and/or care teams. There’s no framework to automate what happens when an entrepreneur graduates from an accelerator and wants to onboard into an institution that could use their product or service. And while hospital networks could benefit from these innovations, HIPPA and other concerns keep them reticent to work with entrepreneurs.

One way for entrepreneurs to gain access is through entrepreneurial learning centers. These examples of care teams embracing innovation and entrepreneurs include Rock Health’s medical partnerships with the Mayo Clinic and Harvard Medical School and the new INFUSE Accelerator for digital health entrepreneurs debuting in Indianapolis. The C3N project out of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, which eMed profiled in an April report, enabled entrepreneurs to aid in the effort to develop interventions for inflammatory bowel disease patients. As part of the initiative, the team at Ginger.io is working to create a model of its application specifically for IBD patients – and C3N connects the entrepreneurs with patients who help hone the technology.

Entrepreneurs can also work to gain access on their own. But those with prior relationships to build on will be the most successful. One entrepreneur, a pediatric heart surgeon who develops games to help children be more compliant with heart transplant treatment, reached out to her network to describe her work and her goal. Having trained in a number of institutions, she had established relationships with several medical centers. By leveraging her past experience, the entrepreneur found a few institutions willing to pilot her effort.

Not everyone has these relationships, so I encourage entrepreneurs to get creative in seeking access. Be aware of opportunities and don’t be afraid to knock on doors. Determine who is struggling with the problem your company can solve – and then become graciously relentless about solving it for them.


Dominique Pahud

Director of Innovation and Networks

Kauffman Foundation

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