AHIP19: A Kaiser Permanente Ventures investor's view of health tech's future

The director of Kaiser Permanente Ventures offers several lessons learned as an investor on the future of health technology. (Getty/DragonImages)(Getty/designer491)

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE—Buzz-generating new technologies from health startups are a dime a dozen.

Want to stand out from the pack? Prove you've not only got a great idea, but that consumers will actually use your product, a Kaiser Permanente investment director told a crowd at the AHIP Institute & Expo last week.

Speaking at the annual gathering of payers and providers, Liz Rockett, director of Kaiser Permanente Ventures, said the secret ingredient is to think of how technology will fit into the spectrum of a patient's care rather than a static point in the care journey. They also need to make sure they've got something patients will intrinsically want to use. 

One of the key concerns with new technologies is that patient uptake is slow, so looking at these options from a broader perspective can give patients or members a reason to care. 

“Folks need to see proof that it works,” Rockett said. 

RELATED: Kaiser Permanente plans new $900M headquarters in Oakland 

One great example: remote monitoring.

It’s a “graveyard” for digital health startups that don’t make it, because simply having the tools available isn’t enough to convince patients or members that it’s worthwhile, Rockett said. It needs to be included as part of a “full stack” of solutions designed to improve their health. 

Seeking a “path of desire” for a product was one of the five lessons from digital health she offered in her panel at the convention. The others are: 

  1. Acknowledge and respect how new innovations can change workflows.
  2. Know when you need more than just technology.
  3. Establish standards for efficacy, adoption and engagement.
  4. Find partnerships to carry innovations for the “last mile.” 

On a hospital ward, nurses may keep a slew of reminders on the station monitor as sticky notes—they're doing the best with the systems they have, Rockett said. When introducing a new scheduling tool or communications platform, be mindful of how that changes day-to-day routines for those nurses. 

RELATED: Venture deals, funding for digital health companies reached $9.5B last year 

Finding—or being—the right partner for a digital tech company is also crucial to establishing long-term success. All the venture backing in the world won’t necessarily help a product reach more people, Rockett said. 

An example of this is CVS Health’s new platform that aims to connect its Caremark pharmacy benefit management clients with services that could bolster their extended benefits. The first company on the platform is Big Health, whose Sleepio service will be made available to additional health plans. 

The team at Big Health has been working on the partnership for the better part of a year, Rockett said. (KP Ventures is an investor in Big Health.) But working with CVS makes sense, because they can go to health plans, offer the service and also manage the service—making it easier for insurers to opt in, she said. 

And that, in turn, gets more customers on the platform, she said. 

“Those partnerships are actually what’s going to make that possible,” Rockett said.