Simplified: Sanford Health this week announced a partnership with a data-focused startup called Dandelion. The hope is that Dandelion will be able to use Sanford's data to help developers make artificial intelligence tools that help doctors – tools that Sanford will get first dibs on whenever they're developed.

Why it matters

  • Sanford's partnership will mean Dandelion will have access to data that includes rural populations – a group historically left out of this type of medical technology research, said Kent Lehr, Sanford's chief business development officer.
  • The hospital system gets to decide what data are released depending on the types of artificial intelligence projects a developer might be working on. All data will be de-identified, so no identifiable patient data will be shared. And no data will leave Sanford's control, Lehr added.  
  • Dandelion's partnership with Sanford, as well as with other hospital systems, is focused on working quickly to help in the development of AI tools that help doctors.
"Not only will we use Dandelion to help in the development of these tools, but then we'll be the first to get them in the hands of our clinicians," Lehr said.

Tell me more about the partnership

Sanford is one of two health systems so far to be partnering with Dandelion Health, Inc.

  • Dandelion is an early-stage startup focused on helping innovators get secure, ethical access to medical data to help in the development of healthcare AI.
“The critical bottleneck to AI development in healthcare has been data,” Dandelion Co-Founder and Chief Scientific Officer Ziad Obermeyer said in a news release.

Sanford will get to choose which specific projects it's involved in from a data standpoint.

  • Lehr gave the example of a developer wanting to develop AI to help with early detection of breast cancer. Sanford might, for example, agree that fits with its mission and agree to safely share de-identified data specific to that project.
"This isn' a situation where we just provide access to a broad dataset," he said. "It’s very specific to the solution that the AI company is trying to develop."

What happens next?

Dandelion is looking for a few more hospital systems to join, and then it'll be up to the AI developers to get to work.

Through the partnership, Sanford will be able to bring the AI tools developed into its own clinics first, Lehr said.

  • But it will likely take months or years before any of the tools are ready to be used in a clinical setting, he added.