What Are You Selling?

By Danny Sierra, Sr Director HCA Healthcare IT Group, Methodist Hospital and Children’s

Information Technology in a hospital setting is an interesting space to live in. On the one hand we are steeped in the cutting edge of medicine and technology while on the other, we are seemingly rooted in legacy applications and outdated tech that we can’t seem to get away from (fax anyone?). With an abundance of IoT offerings and digital transformation efforts in full-swing, it’s exciting to see these advancements and know that we are evermore capable of saving lives and improving the human condition.

As an IT leader in a hospital-setting, I am thrilled to see these new things make their way into our world as it fortifies my position that IT is providing a critical role in health care at every level. Figuring out how to bring new technologies into the hospital while ensuring we maintain a highly-reliable and secure environment is always a challenge – one that is often further complicated by those who are developing and selling the solutions we so desperately need. 

Hospitals need solutions, businesses are creating those solutions and selling them to the hospitals: a perfect model of supply and demand. Of course, that’s not the truth of things as that over-simplification fails to account for the important details that often hamper purchases and rollouts. You can walk into Burger King, order and consume a burger, and the transaction between the supplier and consumer is complete, simple, and straightforward.

I would love to buy every fantastic solution on the market that my hospital needs. The reality, however, is that I must pick and choose dutifully.

A hospital is a much more complicated consumer of goods than a person eating lunch, however I’m still mystified by the number of companies contacting me with solutions that they expect can be instantly consumed – like a burger.

Worse is a supplier of a great product that has sold that solution to a hospital leader without the input from their IT leader: Over-promises = yes. Over-simplified = yes. All those claims are accurate? Not really. Maybe in a sales pitch some of these claims are true, but in reality, they fail to account for the many things in the business model necessary to support the purchase and rollout. 

How about the one-size-fits-all mentality? What you build and sell for a single hospital may not scale to a larger number of hospitals, or hospitals that are significantly larger and maybe more complex than a mid-sized facility. These distinctions often separate the better relationships (partnerships) from the one-time (or no-time) vendors.   

Build relationships, not sales

The notion that building long-term partnerships far outweighs a quick short-term sale is nothing new. From the consumer side, it is much more helpful to have companies to partner with that understand our unique challenges and complexities than companies who know nothing about who we are or how we work.

As the needs of the hospital change (almost daily) those good business partners can more easily adjust and tailor solutions to help solve problems for the hospital which in turn generates potential revenue for the supplier. It is a rare occasion that in an emergency, I call a company I’ve never worked with for help.  Aim to build relationships, not sales. 

Each hospital is unique and bound by invisible parameters

As a supplier, do you know your customer? It’s incredible how many cold-calls I field via phone, text, LinkedIn, email and even snail-mail. I sympathize with companies trying to create great products and then find suitable places for them. Like most people, however, I can’t find the time to respond and connect in any meaningful way. What is helpful is when a supplier has done a little bit of homework to gain some understanding beforehand and spare me the painful task of explanation.

Any hospital can be looked up and partially researched to at least learn a few simple key items. Is it independent or part of a larger network? If it’s part of a network then don’t try and sell cloud or security solutions at the hospital level if it’s generally a centralized function. Who is the parent company and what are their constraints and strategy? More extensive networks have purchasing relationships. If your company is not part of that purchasing group, then are you just spinning your wheels? I’m much more apt to listen or engage when I sense the company has done at least a little research to understand the company they are speaking with. 

Build products that are adaptable and fit into existing technical puzzles

Be realistic in your approach to building solutions and understand that many of your customers who want your solutions may not be able to adopt them. Bigger networks have more layers of bureaucracy to wade through. Every hospital has security concerns at the top of their list.

The idea of standing up a private network or opening multiple machine-level ports to support your solution can pose significant barriers. The focus for IT in the hospital is enabling patient care and protecting our environment. Solutions that introduce risk, circumvent security, or require changes to the environment are much less likely to be adopted. 

I would love to buy every fantastic solution on the market that my hospital needs. The reality, however, is that I must pick and choose dutifully. If you are a supplier trying to deliver solutions in healthcare, please understand that we need your products; whether we can come to terms and make it work requires both sides to go to the table with an equal mindset. Anyone willing to pick up a shovel and lend me a hand is a friend. Anyone who is only trying to sell me the shovel is something I don’t need.


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