Digital collaborations to solve complex challenges

Perspective: Digitally enabled health | Capability: Digital platforms | By: Carelon


At Carelon, we believe in the power of collaboration. To build a better healthcare system, we make connections, think bigger, and share our ideas and expertise. When different groups work together, we can turn challenges into innovative solutions that potentially benefit millions of people.

One way we do this is by connecting healthcare industry leaders with forward-looking digital startups and entrepreneurs. Research shows that digital innovation could help improve our understanding of patients and enable more personalized, convenient care.[1] Harnessing this potential as an industry can make healthcare smarter, simpler, and more effective for everyone.


Start with problems, not solutions


The COVID-19 pandemic sparked new interest in digital and virtual health tools. But with thousands of such tools on the market today, it can be hard to know which ones will make the biggest impact for healthcare consumers.

That’s why we recommend a different approach — one that starts not with the technology itself, but with the challenges that need to be overcome.

“Think of it as falling in love with the problem before falling in love with the solution,” said Omid Toloui, Vice President of Innovation at Carelon Digital Platforms. “Once you define the problem, you can conceive possible ways to solve it. Then look for startup partners with potential solutions you can test and validate, guiding them through the complexities of the healthcare industry along the way."

Toloui emphasized the importance of evaluating potential startup partners to make sure their solutions will meet business needs. Programs like Carelon’s Digital Incubator streamline this evaluation process by screening the market for effective solutions, conducting due diligence on potential partners, and setting milestones for future success.


Look toward the future


As technology evolves, so do consumers’ needs. To stay relevant and create seamless digital experiences, the healthcare industry needs insight into tomorrow’s solutions as well as today’s.

Startups can be a source of groundbreaking ideas and fresh thinking. Many have innovation built into their DNA, because they were founded to fill an existing gap or create a unique new product or category — one reason they are known as industry disruptors.

Working with networks of healthcare startups makes it easier to keep pace with new ideas emerging in the U.S. and around the world. For example, Carelon partner Plug and Play Health works with 40 global provider, life science, insurance, and industry corporations to offer a startup sourcing model that addresses industry-specific hurdles. Partnerships like these help industry leaders discover the latest technology and identify new problem-solving opportunities.


Consider the whole health journey


Health plans have a unique view of the entire healthcare journey. Because they collaborate with providers, employers, pharmaceutical companies, and government agencies, they play an important role in delivering whole health.

Carelon is bringing together health plans and startups to address complex challenges in areas like health equity (including transportation, access to connectivity, and food and housing insecurity), managing chronic diseases, and in-home virtual primary care.

Health plans also have access to vast amounts of member data that they can share with partners in safe, secure, and appropriate ways. For example, our partnership with the Massachusetts eHealth Institute at the MassTech Collaborative gives their network of startups access to the Carelon Digital Data Sandbox — home to one of the world’s largest certified de-identified healthcare data sets. Startups and researchers use the Sandbox to test AI algorithms, uncover new insights, and collaborate with Carelon experts.


Focus on impact at scale


When different organizations work together to create and refine digital health solutions, the end goal should always be the same: going beyond pilots to deliver greater results over the long term. These results should not only change our thinking as an industry, but also demonstrate measurable outcomes, like better health, fewer care gaps, or more positive consumer experiences.

“Whether our team is collaborating with startups, health plans, or other groups, we focus on making a meaningful impact at scale,” said Toloui. “Together, we can solve complex healthcare challenges and ultimately help people lead healthier lives.”


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  1. McKinsey & Company, The era of exponential improvement in healthcare?: (accessed September 2022)

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