Digital Health Ecosystem Series, Part 5: Enabling incumbents: 8 building blocks to create a large-scale digital health ecosystem via partnerships

Digital health ecosystems have become in high demand, and many industry players have explored different building strategies in the last decade. However, despite the need and efforts due to operational challenges, we do not see many successful ecosystems. R2G suggests the eight-building-block approach to create an impactful digital health ecosystem via partnerships. Join us for this digital health ecosystem series as we define, evaluate, and explore the implementation of digital health ecosystems.

The Healthcare industry worldwide has recognized the benefits of building an ecosystem of digital health solutions to serve better their patients, employees, or health plan members. The pandemic has even enforced the demand for remotely connecting all stakeholders of the healthcare systems via digital tools and services in the past two years.

Building an ecosystem of third-party digital health solutions is strategically important for many healthcare incumbents. Identifying, integrating, and constantly updating best-in-class digital health solutions of the ecosystem is a strategic competence that healthcare companies must develop.

However, success stories are not common despite plenty of experienced incumbents and promising digital health solutions today. The current approaches to building digital health ecosystems, e.g., accelerators, company builders, or investment arms, seem not to lead to a natural implementation of a large-scale digital health ecosystem. Instead, a new approach is needed.

To dive deeper and explore the best-in-class digital health ecosystems as well as examine the current challengesget your copy of R2G’s latest whitepaperBuilding Digital Health Ecosystems: The eight building blocks of a digital health ecosystem“!

For many healthcare companies, the vision of the digital health ecosystem will translate into 20, 30, or more digital health partnerships to support their value propositions. Consequently, they must organize a dedicated project team, governance structure, processes, and information technology infrastructure accordingly to build and manage an ecosystem of this size efficiently. Eight building blocks are essential to develop and manage a sizable digital health ecosystem with partners:


Curation and listing services, marketing and sales support, shipment of partner devices and accessories, data storage and sharing, population management, health system integration, and billing are just a few options of possible services that digital health ecosystems could provide. In addition, healthcare companies must clearly define their ecosystem value propositions and objectives to manage the expectations of partners and internal stakeholders.


Building a competitive ecosystem is a three to five-year project. Third-party digital health solutions are typically added one after the other or ideally in waves of three to five solutions at a time. The roadmap defines the kind of digital health solution to be added at a time (in a wave). The order of solutions should be linked to the expected benefit level and the availability of solutions with corresponding proof of evidence. The roadmap should be evaluated and updated bi-annually.


Companies that know what they are looking for based on their defined value proposition and roadmap can conduct a more targeted and efficient partner search and matching process than is typically the case with current approaches.


It is a guideline for all activities to identify, integrate, and manage new partners. It is not practical to reinvent the building process whenever connecting with a new partner, even though each partnership is different. A good playbook includes but is not limited to procedures for partner recruitment and testing, technical integration, partnership business models, and partner management and feedback programs and will be updated constantly.


Building an ecosystem requires a governance structure that provides clear ownership (sponsor) and responsibility of the partnership(s) within the ecosystem throughout the entire process. Building an agile team that speaks the same language as potential partners while understanding the internal requirements of an established company to overcome cultural barriers is challenging but critical. Start with a core team and expand according to the roadmap.


The pearl of wisdom is “what gets measured gets done.” It also applies to building and managing an ecosystem. Companies need to define what benefits they want to get out of the ecosystem and use the measurements and tracking methods. Tracking typically includes KPIs like the number of users per month but also reduced claim costs (insurers), sick leaves (employers), HCP chat messages (pharma), or the readmission rates (hospitals). The constant tracking of expected benefits will allow companies to evaluate the partners’ performance and rationale for the internal budget and resource justification.


Making the members (insurers), employees (employers), patients, and HCPs (pharma, hospitals) aware of the digital solutions in the ecosystem requires targeted communications and education activities. Multiple options exist to engage with potential users and key opinion leaders and communicate with internal and external stakeholders. For example, health plan members or employees might be best invited by digital marketing, including direct links to the registration page of the digital health service. In addition, companies need to define the most efficient communication and distribution channels.


Ecosystems with a high integration level of the third-party digital health solutions into the core processes of the healthcare company will need a platform to efficiently manage the solutions supporting, e.g., user authentication, data exchange, usage monitoring, or billing. The architecture of the Insurtech platform, such as Accolate and Collective Health, head to the direction where these platforms might develop.

Today, various segments offer a substantial number of digital health solutions that meet best-in-class standards and are ready-to-use for digital health ecosystems. It is good news for any healthcare company that wants to build a digital health solutions ecosystem. The eight-building blocks approach encompasses all the relevant components that a company must consider while building a successful partnership to build a thriving ecosystem ultimately.

R2G’s Digital Health Ecosystem Series

Our team identified the best-in-class examples while conducting extensive research and projects within the health insurance industry. Some market players had 100 solutions within their ecosystems from third-party providers in a wide variety of digital health segments.

R2G’s digital health ecosystem series tackles what, who, why, and how to build healthcare incumbents’ digital health ecosystems.

Part 1: Enabling incumbents: building digital health ecosystems to unlock value for insurers

Part 2: Enabling Incumbents: Top 4 Reasons for Health Insurers to Build Digital Health Ecosystems

Part 3: Enabling Incumbents: 5 Main Steps How Insurers Can Build Digital Health Ecosystems

Part 4: The rise of digital health ecosystems. It just takes 3 years to build one.

Get your copy of R2G’s latest whitepaper “Building Digital Health Ecosystems: The eight building blocks of a digital health ecosystem“!

If you want to learn more about building digital health ecosystems and how our team can assist you, please contact us.