Partnering with a Digital Health Startup – Pros and Cons

Jamie Lecomb

February 20, 2023
Website Partnering with a Digital Health Startup

Partnering with a startup can be a great way to expand your business, but it’s not for everyone. Why is that? Well, like every other sector of business, the startup space comes with its unique set of advantages and disadvantages, mainly due to companies’ novelty on the market.

Partnering with a digital health startup, or any SaaS startup, can be a great way to expand your business, but it’s not for everyone. Why is that? Well, like every other sector of business, the startup space comes with its unique set of advantages and disadvantages, mainly due to companies’ novelty on the market.

Early-stage startups are selling the idea of their product, in which sales conversations need to adopt an entirely different course than fully fledged companies with proven success. Jordan Belfort, or as many would call him, “The Wolf of Wallstreet,” coined the term “The Straight Line” to refer to the process, steps, and obstacles a person or corporate would need to follow to get a sale from its initial idea and discovery stage, “A,” to a delivered product at “B.”

A startup’s sales process or “straight line” would vary significantly from established entitles, and with that comes an entirely different set of perks and shortcomings. Startups know how to think differently and see new opportunities where others may not. Startups are more financially agile than larger companies. They can move faster, test different strategies and quickly implement due to their small size. Hear from Intely’s CEO in this podcast on the startup journey

In healthcare, newly emerging companies aim to reinvent how healthcare is delivered and take a unique spin in delivering those efficiencies to improve their customers’ services. End-users of digital health products could vary from back-end IT and engineering staff, front-end staff or administrative staff, healthcare providers, and sometimes patients. Digital health startups are innovative, creative, and fast-paced and have the power to make a substantial impact on their patients’ lives. Here are 6 tips to for Healthcare Technology Sales Reps.

Data Integration, Artificial Intelligence, and Telehealth are some of the fastest growing sectors of Digital Health currently.

Before making any decisions, take time to consider the pros and cons of partnering with a digital health startup. To build your own startup or product, consider these 4 product decisions in today’s digital health market

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“New companies make new ideas which make new innovations and new opportunities.” 

New opportunities — You might find that working with a digital health startup opens new opportunities previously unavailable in your industry. The nature of a new business is to identify and serve a need in the market that no other company has addressed. Startup companies are a great place to look for solutions that have not previously been introduced to the market. They are the next generation of corporations, still in the early stages. Metaphorically, they are caterpillars waiting for the opportunity to blossom into butterflies.

Companies like intely are shaking up the market, providing their clients with a unique value proposition that no company previously has addressed or successfully deployed. Their proprietary integration platform allows healthcare systems and other digital health companies to seamlessly communicate data with their many external vendors by utilizing the intely infrastructure, thus eliminating the heavy lifts and robust complexities of healthcare data integration.

New tools — Digital health startups often develop new tools and technologies that could benefit practices or hospitals. For example, digital health startups might create an app that helps patients communicate with their doctors more easily or an online service that allows patients to schedule appointments online instead of calling or visiting the office in person. You get access to innovative technologies and services that can help you improve the quality of your patient’s lives.

Phase Zero is an excellent example of such a company. Phase Zero is a patient-centric CRM for digital health companies and health systems. Phase Zero allows their customers to build patient management and care coordination workflows in a no-code UX/UI. Read more about Intely’s partnership with Phase Zero.

New revenue streams — Some digital healthcare companies also offer business models that can help increase revenue for your practice or hospital. For example, they might charge fees for their services or products or offer them free of charge in exchange for data sharing rights so they can better target advertising campaigns.

Nitra is bringing Smart Finance to the underserved sectors of America – starting with healthcare. Nitra is a company that provides an ecosystem that helps doctors better manage their practices, so they can focus on what they are best at – patient care. Nitra is the first business card explicitly built for doctors. It aims to bring physicians and medical clinics nationwide the loans, accounts, payments, and expense management products they expect in an all-in-one platform powered by machine learning and blockchain technologies. Nitra has developed financial services built for Doctors – saving them time and money and helping them grow their businesses.


But partnering with a digital health startup also comes with its share of challenges. For example, you may have to adjust to integrate these new technologies into your operations.

Less marketing — Working with a digital health startup might not give you access to the social media following, email lists, or other marketing tools that more developed businesses would otherwise offer.

More risk — There is inheritably more risk with working with startups. Startups are typically enhancing the development of the offerings you seek as the sales process thickens. The drawback to being so malleable is that startups may get pulled in many different directions by the various demands and expectations their customers and prospects are asking of them. It is important to land on a commitment early in the sales process when engaging startup businesses so that deliverables are measurable and can be reported during product development and implementation.

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The startup space in healthcare should be treated like an entirely different sector altogether. Many buyers are enticed by the new, boundary-pushing ideas that startups seek to sell and bring to the market. Other buyers, however, are attracted to the leanness of startups and value their ability to pivot to new strategies and ideas when the market changes or an idea fails to get off the ground. Other buyers can look at these two attributes as negatives conversely by emphasizing the skepticism around their ability to deliver the product or its impact on an untested market.

Conversely to the last statement, startups should be treated no differently than any other business. This seems like a nonsensical paradox, but I genuinely mean it. The trust a prospective buyer weighs on a purchasing decision shouldn’t differ from the three pillars of trust below.

The same three questions need to be answered in every sales process. Firstly, can the buyer trust the product? Is the product going to be the answer to their problems? Secondly, can the buyer trust the company? Does the company provide the resources for the implementation’s success? Lastly, can the buyer trust the seller? Does the seller truly have the buyer’s best interests in mind, and does the product benefit the prospective customer?

Regardless of whether a company is new or old, the answer to all three of those questions must be a unanimous yes for a prospective buyer to trust the product being purchased.  

What are the advantages of partnering with a digital health startup?
  • New Opportunities: Startups often identify and serve unmet needs in the market, providing unique solutions and innovations that established companies may not offer.
  • Access to New Tools: Startups frequently develop cutting-edge tools and technologies, such as patient communication apps and online scheduling services, enhancing patient care and operational efficiency.
  • New Revenue Streams: Startups may offer business models that increase revenue through service fees, product sales, or data-sharing agreements that enable targeted advertising.
Can you give examples of successful digital health startups?
  • Intely: Provides a proprietary integration platform for seamless data communication between healthcare systems and external vendors, simplifying complex healthcare data integration.
  • Phase Zero: Offers a patient-centric CRM with no-code UX/UI for building patient management and care coordination workflows.
  • Nitra: Focuses on smart finance for healthcare, offering business cards, loans, accounts, payments, and expense management products specifically for doctors.
What are the potential drawbacks of partnering with a digital health startup?
  • Less Marketing Support: Startups may not have extensive social media followings, email lists, or other marketing tools compared to established companies.
  • Higher Risk: Working with startups involves more risk as their products and services are still in development. They may face challenges in delivering consistent results due to the evolving nature of their offerings.
  • Integration Challenges: Incorporating new technologies from startups into existing operations may require significant adjustments and adaptation.
How can partnering with a startup benefit a healthcare practice or hospital?

Partnering with a startup can introduce innovative solutions that enhance patient care, improve operational efficiency, and create new revenue streams. Startups bring fresh perspectives and agility, allowing healthcare providers to stay competitive and responsive to market changes.

What should be considered before partnering with a digital health startup?
  • Trust in the Product: Ensure that the startup’s product addresses your specific needs and solves your problems effectively.
  • Trust in the Company: Evaluate whether the startup has the necessary resources and support for successful implementation.
  • Trust in the Seller: Confirm that the seller has your best interests in mind and that the product genuinely benefits your organization.
How can startups impact the healthcare industry?

Startups can drive innovation by introducing new technologies and business models that improve patient care, streamline operations, and enhance overall healthcare delivery. They bring flexibility and creativity, addressing gaps and unmet needs in the market.

Why might some organizations hesitate to partner with startups?

Organizations may hesitate due to the inherent risks associated with startups, such as unproven products, limited resources, and the potential for rapid changes in direction. There may also be concerns about the startup’s ability to deliver consistent results and integrate seamlessly with existing systems.

How can the risks of partnering with a startup be mitigated?

To mitigate risks, organizations should:

  • Conduct thorough due diligence on the startup’s product, team, and track record.
  • Establish clear commitments and measurable deliverables early in the partnership.
  • Maintain open communication and regularly review progress and outcomes.
What makes a startup different from established companies?

Startups are typically characterized by their innovative approaches, agility, and focus on addressing unmet market needs. They can pivot quickly and test new strategies, but they may also face challenges related to resource limitations and market validation.

What are the three pillars of trust in a business partnership?
  • Product Trust: Confidence that the product solves the buyer’s problems effectively.
  • Company Trust: Assurance that the company provides adequate resources and support for implementation success.
  • Seller Trust: Belief that the seller has the buyer’s best interests in mind and that the product genuinely benefits the customer.
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