Digital Innovation Hub

Can a Simple Checklist Help Effectively Launch Pilots for Digital Health?

At Brigham and Women’s Hospital, we seek to adopt innovative, digital solutions to solve pressing health care challenges and provide the best care for our patients.

Perhaps you are a founder or business development lead of such a solution and are seeking a hospital to adopt it. Would you know where to start?

Too often, innovators don’t know where within our institution they should start, whom they should talk to, or what even matters to us.

Some of the main reasons digital health startups tend to land in pilot purgatory is that innovators lack clarity on the process to pilot new digital solutions, don’t engage with the right stakeholders, and don’t align their project with an institution’s strategic priorities. Some simply give up, underestimating the bureaucracy and often risk-intolerance of a large, complex institution and resulting long sales cycles.

At the Brigham Digital Innovation Hub, we aim to not only foster innovation within our own institution but also bring outside solutions inside as fast and efficiently as possible. To ease some of these pain points and confusion, we developed the Digital Health Innovation Guide to help innovators and disruptors meet the necessary guidelines and optimize their pilot launch.

Having spent much of my own career frustrated by the seemingly endless pilot approval process, it’s my personal mission to make the Brigham both safe and efficient in onboarding and scaling digital pilots.

Josie Elias
Program Manager, Digital Health Implementation

We constantly push our innovators to understand their challenges and solve their needs. As innovators ourselves, we practice what we preach. We were often inundated with requests by stymied innovators unsure of where to turn next, how to work with startups, or how to get their pilot off the ground.

To meet growing demand from internal stakeholders, the Digital Health Innovation Guide, or “DHIG,” was created as a transparent, streamlined process to expedite digital pilot readiness, especially using technologies that require integration with our hospital information systems.

As part of the DHIG process, we bring together a multidisciplinary group of stakeholders on a regular basis to advise each pilot and surface potential blockers early on. This group includes our colleagues from information security, engineering, legal, contracting, and institutional review board—just to name a few.

From the project side, the project lead, clinical and administrative champion, and external vendor/developer present their initiative, and the advisors help them create a roadmap to launch—this is our DHIG checklist.

Central to the DHIG process and our innovation is the standardized checklist. This has been a critical success in getting pilots ready for launch. From the initial DHIG meeting, the group of stakeholders help identify the scope and tasks needed to be completed. This sets the expectations for startups and champions alike and creates actionable next steps for all.

Once completed, both the internal and external stakeholders can move onto the execution and evaluation phases of their project, ultimately returning with lessons learned and plans for expansion.

This model achieves the role of elucidating the often complex and convoluted process to adopt technology in solving vital challenges.

Here’s what we found from a review of DHIG projects between July 2014 and December 2016 (Tseng et al., 2017). Read “Catalyzing healthcare transformation with digital health: Performance indicators and lessons learned from a Digital Health Innovation Group” (Tseng et al. 2017)

Healthc (Amst). 2017 Sep 25. pii: S2213-0764(17)30049-0. doi: 10.1016/j.hjdsi.2017.09.003

Read more


You may be thinking this sounds like more bureaucracy to slow down innovation at a large institution. But that’s not our point. Our goal is to expedite and clear roadblocks whenever possible, while ensuring that products being tested are safe for our patients, staff, and institution.

Development of the DHIG, is based on years of knowledge gained by implementing these partnerships and processing them through the myriad approvals, forms and assessments that must be completed, the order in which tasks must occur, and what constitutes an acceptable level of risk.

In some cases, this has led us to create standardized templates and routine pathways to help us streamline the implementation process at our academic medical center. Yet, we continue to learn and develop our own processes and tools with each new, unique pilot we encounter.

As any efficient team based within a large, academic medical center, we are always working on refining and learning from our own process. DHIG has helped to accelerate further digital pilots at the Brigham.

From January 2017 to December 2017, we have reviewed an additional 30 pilots. Having data has enabled us to learn and try more quickly and provide greater transparency to our stakeholders.

These processes and assets created through the DHIG have helped projects move to launch quickly and helped us to better predict and avoid the potential traps into which many pilots fall. We have seen an increase in the number of faculty and staff coming to us with new pilot ideas and “stuck” pilots looking for advice. Everyday more of these pilots reach pilot phase and now move to production.

We want to change the perception that hospitals, specifically academic medical centers, are slow and hard to work with. We have the unique position to both support the startup community and serve as guides for our Brigham Innovators. If you are an innovator looking for a way to connect your great idea with an innovative AMC, check out our checklist, and get in touch!

As always, we encourage clinicians, entrepreneurs, students, and any individuals with innovative and bright ideas to pursue conversations with the Brigham iHub and help us lead the digital transformation in health care.

Written by

Chen Cao, MPH
Innovation Analyst