Healthcare startups can now apply to be part of Amazon Web Services' new digital health accelerator program that aims to support firms working on products and services to improve outcomes, lower costs and enhance clinical experiences for both providers and patients.
The AWS Healthcare Accelerator is a virtual four-week technical and business-focused mentorship opportunity tailored to startups developing technology for public-sector healthcare enterprises, AWS announced Monday. The startups must be U.S.-based or already operate in the United States.
At the core of the initiative is answering the question, "What does the next digitized hospital look like?" said Sandy Carter, vice president of worldwide public sector partners and programs at the Seattle-based company. "What we're looking for is next-generation telemedicine, more specialized wearable devices, intelligent digital assistants, the use of AI to better analyze data, maybe smart glasses with VR to enhance the clinicians' experience," she said.
AWS will provide companies with guidance on key priorities, such as defining their business models, integrating electronic health records and promoting commercial traction for their offerings.
Applications and proposals for the program are due by July 23. Ten startup companies—with established customers, revenue and product-market fit—will be selected to participate in the first cohort.
Accelerators and incubators have invested nearly $12 billion so far this year in digital health startups in more than a dozen deals this year, according to data from the San Francisco-based venture fund Rock Health.
Accelerators typically are run by health systems, health insurance companies, or independent organizations backed by private equity or venture capital and provide seed money and services to smaller companies, said Adam Block, founder of digital health consulting firm Charm Economics in Fort Washington, New York.
Money and assistance from accelerators can boost a startup's chances of success, but the firm must have a solid foundation already, Block said. "An accelerator is not going to be able to save a company that does not have a good value proposition."
AWS is working with KidsX, a Los Angeles-based digital health accelerator affiliated with children's hospitals in several countries, to evaluate applications. The companies will assess the novelty of the proposals, the projects' overall value to the healthcare sector, how the startups would leverage AWS technology and the potential recipients' capacity to deliver on their promises, Carter said.
Each startup chosen will receive 50 hours of personalized support and attend a series of business, mentorship and technology classes from Sept. 20 through Oct. 15, she said.
AWS and KidsX also will help startups achieve HIPAA compliance and swifter approvals from regulators, Carter said. AWS will curate a virtual Demo Day to showcase the program's startups to key healthcare stakeholders as a means of promoting partnerships and receiving feedback, she said.
"There's a material benefit to creating something with an utter sense of urgency," said Alyssa Jaffee, partner at Chicago-based 7wire Ventures. "It does create a really interesting dynamic and an interesting environment doing it alongside other companies."
There are, however, drawbacks to startups collaborating with accelerators, Jaffee said. Companies that are too far from market and are still building their operations may feel pressure to produce results more quickly than is feasible, she said. Startups considering partnerships with accelerators should understand there are no guarantees of success, she said.
"A lot of these [accelerators] have value," Jaffee said. "But I also think sometimes value can be overpromised."