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Think of it as digital health’s chicken and egg problem. Which comes first: national distribution of your algorithm, or clinical evidence that it works? For a startup, it is almost impossible to have one without the other.

The medical artificial intelligence company Dascena is among many early-stage companies in the throes of this debate. It has developed multiple promising algorithms to give clinicians early warning of conditions such as acute kidney injury and sepsis, a life-threatening complication of infection. But how does it turn promise into hard proof, and ultimately, profit?

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