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As Johns Hopkins gastroenterologist Simon Mathews has watched scores of digital health upstarts collect hundreds of millions of dollars in venture funding in recent years, he’s had one key question: “If we’re putting in all this money, shouldn’t it be linked to making a difference?”

So he and a group of researchers set out to quantify just how much startups actually move the needle in health care. Armed with data from venture fund Rock Health, they devised a simple “clinical robustness” score: the sum of the number of a startup’s completed clinical trials and its regulatory filings with the FDA. The results were grim. Relatively few companies, they found, had completed clinical trials.

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