platform, noun 1. A raised level surface on which people or things can stand.
When I think about a platform, especially in business, I imagine a foundation for building an integrated solution or a value proposition.
From an investor perspective, when a private equity firm looks at a market and sees an unmet need, they will develop an investment thesis. And from that, they will build a platform strategy.
Creating a Platform Strategy
The first thing a private equity firm does when executing against an investment thesis is to find and buy what they call an “anchor company.” Then they make a series of smaller, bolt-on acquisitions and integrate them to form an end-to-end solution that’s bigger than the sum of the parts. Efficiencies from the integration, synergies in the collective capabilities and the impact of strong leadership help create this impact.
We need more of this kind of thinking in healthcare.
It doesn’t all need to be acquisition-oriented like it is in the private equity world. Healthcare could focus on partnerships, which is often a more nimble approach. For example, pharma could partner with a mHealth app, a data analytics company, a disease management firm and a regional care center or ACO to create an integrated approach to supporting a diabetes or asthma population.
This would create a healthcare whole that is bigger than the sum of the individual products and services.
For example, four companies recently partnered to win a White House Ebola Grand Challenge to provide a “precision medicine” approach using wearable, wireless health sensors, a wireless vital signs monitoring platform and advanced analytics technology to monitor and analyze multiple vital signs of patients either suspected or confirmed to be infected with the Ebola virus. This wouldn’t have been possible if any of these companies had tried to do this on their own.
My only question is, why wasn’t there a pharmaceutical company in this partnership?
A Thousand Points of Light
The recent flurry of innovation and technology in healthcare has given us dozens of point solutions and interesting one-off fixes that solve parts of healthcare quality, care and cost challenge. We have mHealth startups, drug companies, analytics products, ACOs and disease management firms each doing what they do, trying to profitably solve one small piece of the puzzle.
But with all these exciting new developments, where is the breakthrough system impact on cost and quality of care?
For example, the many activity trackers, sleep sensors and blood glucose monitors are all devices collecting data. But how actionable is that data? The data output is seldom connected to an analytics engine that provides users with true insight as to what the numbers and trends mean. They’re almost never connected to a patient’s electronic health record or a remote monitoring system that would alert a doctor or call center of a negative trend. How about integration with a disease management program that can intervene on a timely basis? Nope.
Who wants to lead?
In order to make all these point solutions really work, we need a platform strategy in which someone (an investor, an integrator, or someone assuming the role of anchor) finds and builds business partnerships to create a value proposition that is larger, stronger and more encompassing than the sum of the individual tactics.
We’re now at the point where we need to build platforms that integrate these point solutions into something scalable that will have a bigger impact on health.
It’s not unusual for consumer product innovation to go through this phase of cool new devices being rushed to market to build brand awareness and market share. But in healthcare, the stakes are higher. We’ve been speeding along, spawning new technologies, devices, functionality, and tools. It’s time to step back and re-examine the overall picture.
The issue is no longer “Where is the innovation happening?”
Now the question we need to be asking is, “What’s the right platform that will aggregate the best of these innovations – that will actually make life simpler and easier, healthcare more efficient and effective, and the care experience better for patients and physicians?”
What platform strategy will make the whole greater than the sum of the parts? Are there any good examples yet?
Who are the right partners?
And who will take the lead?