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Startnership: Minimal Viable Pilots 101

Due to COVID, virtual medical digital soup, i,e. vitual care/telemedicine/telehealth/remote sensing/patient reported outcomes/AI/analytics has gone from 0 to 100 in 14 months. It only took 100 years to become famous overnight.

Now, due to COVID, there are hundreds of vitual care companies and each one is trying to break out from the crowd. Here’s what to look for when selecting a virtual care vendor.

Here are some issues when you create a go to market strategy for your B2B digital health product with a hospital or other health services organization.

If you are a virtual care startup, you will most likely need to do a minimal viable pilot, i.e a startnership. Here is how to get out of pilot purgatory. But, you should plan to prevent that.


Here are some tips on how to pilot your minimal viable product.

Here are some more tips:

  1. Derisk it. Make the pilot Hippocratic; first, do no harm. Data should be protected. There should be minimal interference with and/or demands made upon ongoing systems and processes. Pilots should be quick and easy to shut down. They should create no novel vulnerability. Smart legacies should offer pilot risk principles and guidelines to startups wanting to partner with them.
  2. Remember that less is more. Ask yourself, “What is the single most important insight to acquire or valuable proposition to test?” Not the top two or the top three; the most important. Ambition is the enemy. Iteration is the aspiration. Getting startups and legacies to agree on that one thing that would really move the needle always clarifies, purifies, and sharpens. Scope creep guarantees burdensome complexity and delay. Moreover, startups are typically under-resourced relative to the demands of their legacy partners. Focus and specificity strips away the usual startup excuses and highlight accountability.
  3. Explicitly align any insights gained to KPI improvements. Startups and legacies may ultimately and understandably want to learn different things from an innovation but — fundamentally — MVPs must be designed to deliver a clear measure around a desired outcome. Typically, that measure is — or directly feeds into — a KPI (key performance indicator). Whether that KPI is a Net Promoter Score or faster service or lower cost doesn’t matter. What matters is that everyone in the partnership clearly understands how and why the MVP did — or did not — deliver that KPI improvement.
  4. Know what’s next. Did the pilot enhance that KPI? Congratulations — what’s the next experiment? Does the next iteration help scale up the insight or bring another innovation attribute along for the ride? Should the next pilot double-down on what’s been learned or suggest a complementary approach? For example, one startnership pilot successfully got a business unit to write a simple but powerful analytic through its API. Instead of doing another pilot with an even more sophisticated API, the legacy and startup agreed to market the initial API throughout the firm. The startup learned how to broaden its intra-enterprise reach, and the legacy firm realized it was more concerned about promoting analytics throughout the firm, rather than just improving the capabilities of a key business unit. In increasingly data-driven, digital, and iterative business environments, pilots live as ongoing processes, not singular or discrete events. Innovation partnerships assume a distinct “devops” flavor and aftertaste. That is, even pilot failures offer up actionable insights for what to do next — even if it’s not with one’s original “startnership” partner.
  5. Make everyone look good. Technically, a well-defined and well-designed MVP never fails. The benefits of learning — the experience, the engagement, the exposure to technical innovation and organizational insight — should clearly outweigh the financial and opportunity costs. The smart organizations I know consistently wring great value from their expanding pilot portfolios. One industrial giant, unhappy with its human resources software vendor, did a quick and dirty pilot startnership around a particularly annoying limitation of its existing system. The pilot yielded no suitable alternative or supplementary value, but identified a feature that allowed the legacy to challenge its vendor to add some important features. The ploy worked. A “failed” $50,000 MVP led to a UX upgrade well worth six-figures. The startup turned its ostensible shortcoming into a usable insight in its own technical and sales development.
  6. Be sure you understand the composition and personas of each member of the buying group
  7. Be sure you are solving the right problem
  8. Satisfy the IT integration and cybersecurity requirements on the legacy systems
  9. Comply with the legal, regulatory and ethical requirements of responsible AI
  10. Define who owns the intellectual property and rights to the final results
  11. Be sure the solution will meet not just your immediate needs, but your needs in the future
  12. Pick a vendor that will allow you to make the necessary changes or improvements without being “held hostage” by the vendor to make them.

Here is how to find clinical champions and potential pilot partners from outside in.

Medical telemania had created a lot of noise. The purpose of a minimally viable pilot is to conclusively demonstrate a carefully chosen, most important value signal of the quintuple aim. Can you hear me now?

Dr. Anthony Chang’s book is available on Amazon now! 

Intelligence-Based Cardiology and Cardiac Surgery Intelligence-Based Cardiology and Cardiac Surgery: Artificial Intelligence and Human Cognition in Cardiovascular Medicine (Intelligence-Based Medicine: Subspecialty Series) Data Science, Artificial

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