Digital health startups can incorporate clinical expertise into business models — here’s how

Early indications show funding to digital health startups in Q4 2022 fell so much, they’re close to levels last seen in 2019.

But the dollar amounts don’t tell the whole story. How you grow as a digital healthcare company is just as important as if you grow at all.

A company built for the long term should have clinical experts as part of its leadership to ensure that care is always based on the patient’s medical needs, as well as to maintain quality control.

Here’s a framework that digital health startups can consider:

Bring clinicians into senior leadership

The best-case scenario for a digital health startup is to bring on a clinician as a co-founder.

I speak from experience. My co-founder is a triple-board-certified psychiatrist who brings clinical expertise to everything she does. From evaluating product roadmap decisions with our technology department to strategy discussions at board meetings and managing our entire clinical team, her contributions are vital to the health and direction of the company.

Dedicating resources and space to full-time providers allows them to focus more on patient care — the reason they got into medicine.

Outside the C-suite, hiring clinicians as senior leaders with responsibilities beyond clinical practice is invaluable. The key is to ensure clinicians know they will report to another clinician, not a non-clinical executive.

Non-clinical leaders, including founders and non-clinical C-suite executives, should practice what they preach. They should consistently loop in their clinical partners for business discussions even if they don’t have an obvious clinical impact.

The main benefits of taking this approach include:

  • The clinical and non-clinical partnership is more active from the jump.
  • Other team members and clinical staff will see and respect the inclusion.
  • Clinicians may uncover something that has an indirect but important clinical impact.

Beyond hiring clinicians in-house, startups should consider inviting clinicians to join their board of directors. Their presence on the board helps guide a company toward becoming an ethical and sustainable medical practice focused on helping patients rather than a technology company operating at the expense of patients.

This dedication to patient outcomes is a differentiator and should be reflected at every working level of a digital health startup.

Celebrate providers’ dedication

Dedicating resources and space to full-time providers allows them to focus more on patient care — the reason they got into medicine.