Why Healthcare Orgs and Digital Startups Should Partner

Established healthcare brands can draw energy and agility through tech-focused collaborations.

As regulations continue to evolve toward value-based care and patients become more empowered to make healthcare choices, it’s more important than ever for healthcare companies to create compelling and satisfying experiences. In 2017, the industry saw an increase in digital healthcare startups dedicated to delivering consumer-centric healthcare experiences. This new crop of companies is disrupting the larger healthcare providers, payers, and pharmaceutical companies who are struggling to keep up. However, rather than seeing these startups as a threat, legacy healthcare companies can create valuable partnerships to help them deliver more consumer-centric experiences.

Key Steps to Partnering with Digital Healthcare Startups

Creating strong, mutually-beneficial partnerships with healthcare startups does not happen overnight. The best partnerships are formed with clear business goals for both parties in mind. To get started, Prophet has identified a few key steps to creating strategic partnerships:

Assess Internal Gaps

Assessing where internal gaps are will help find where partnerships are going to drive the most impact. Establish a clear vision for how partnering will improve consumer experiences and ladder up to broader business goals. We’ve found these gaps are commonly around data, interface, community, content or platforms. Assess current initiatives with a critical eye and define where the company can buy services, build the experience in-house, or develop a partnership. 

Map a Landscape

Mapping a landscape will narrow the field based on business priorities. There are hundreds of healthcare startups, so creating a specific set of criteria to focus the search will prevent companies from pursuing a partner only to find out later that it is not the right fit. This prioritization also helps companies understand the landscape of potential competitors.

Define a Clear Value Proposition

Establishing a clear value proposition will help jumpstart partnership conversations. Defining a common value proposition is often where healthcare partnerships go awry. Healthcare startups can benefit from the institutional knowledge and scale that large healthcare players have. Legacy companies also need to think through what benefits they can receive from the partner and come to the table with proposed synergies to generate excitement. These mutually beneficial partnerships can also drive innovation and result in a culture shift in larger organizations.

Don’t Just Fund, Co-Create

Big healthcare companies can avoid the risks of becoming just another investor by starting the partnership with collaboration sessions. Bring ideas to the table, but understand those ideas can only be improved upon through iteration. Set up teams and workshops to continue the collaboration and drive new solutions that deliver on the shared value proposition.

“Rather than seeing these startups as a threat, legacy healthcare companies can create valuable partnerships to help them deliver more consumer-centric experiences.”


Developing a strategic partnership can help large healthcare companies jumpstart their journey to customer-centricity. When forming a partnership, many larger healthcare companies hit roadblocks created by existing cultural norms – whether that’s overcoming a “do it alone” mentality, accepting more transparent processes, or tolerating the uncertainty of test-and-learn.

However, companies that succeed in building strong partnerships often see benefits beyond an improved customer experience – they gain exposure to new cultural norms and more agile ways of working. These effects can spread across an organization and help large companies drive a wider transformation to customer-centricity.

Want to learn more about consumer-centricity in healthcare? Read Prophet’s recent report, “Making the Shift: Healthcare’s Transformation to Consumer-Centricity.”