3 Steps Med / Tech Companies Can Take to Foster Stronger Collaboration with Health Service Providers

Most medical technology companies – both large and small – understand their products, technology and services inside and out. Generally speaking, I applaud the level of clinical knowledge sales representatives possess. Clearly, these companies expend tremendous amounts of time on training and expect their teams to perform at the highest level.

The challenge for industry begins when they try to navigate the complexity of the hospital decision making process with a fragmented understanding of how the process really works.

It is vital that Med / Tech Companies understand how hospitals work from a strategic level, including shared service organizations, if these companies want to engage hospital stakeholders at the department level.

As a representative of a Med / Tech Company, your additional strategic insight and perspective will be well received by the stakeholders – your customers. If you were meeting with me and were aware of the strategic direction of my hospital you would catch my attention very quickly.

Let’s consider three steps to help guide your actions and create stronger long-term relationships with your customers.

STEP 1 Understand what is being communicated by the hospital’s strategic documents

By understand, I mean have you taken the time to conduct an in-depth review of all available documentation? This is the first step and it will help you develop Key Performance Indicator (KPI’s) profiles for the hospital system you plan to target. I took a few minutes and used Google to complete a search for Canadian Hospital Strategic Plans. My result was 2.7 million hits in 0.40 seconds. The first strategic plan listed was the St. Michael’s 2015-18 Strategic Plan. I read the document and created a list of seven key points that resonated with me. Obviously there is a tremendous amount of information in the strategic document. Your goal should be to pull out the most significant points.

Here’s my list:

Re-development 3.0 initiative – transform the platform for new, innovative models of care that will enhance the patient experience

Agreement with the Ministry of Health on community and home care, system integration, access, patient experience and an increase in population health (see IHI Triple Aim for more information)

New budget model tied to performance, volume and efficiencies – retain resources in order to invest in system innovation

Integrate ambulatory care through comprehension of the total patient journey

Core priorities:

  • Comprehensive care for our entire urban community
  • Advance systems of care for disadvantaged patients
  • Excel in the care of critically ill patients
  • Research and Education

SOAPEE – Safety, Outcomes, Access, Patient Integrated, Equity and Efficiency and Value = quality/cost.

Having created your key points, you’re now much more familiar with the St. Michael’s Hospital (SMH) priorities. Now it’s time to put the information to use. But before we move on, some investigation is required. Next is a list of 5 questions that still have to be answered before you can tie it all together.

Is the information posted online about hospitals easy to obtain?*

STEP 2 A list of questions to answer to maximize your engagement with hospital stakeholders.

1) Is SMH on track to achieve its strategic priorities by 2018?
Understanding SMH’s current performance plan will provide insight as to where the leadership is focusing their attention. This impacts the amount of time stakeholders dedicate to opportunities outside the core priorities.

2) How does the system integration impact managers in their day to day operation?
Products have a point of impact along the continuum of care so it is important to understand how the pathway functions in order to communicate the value of a product or solution in system terms.

3) Is SOAPEE used to determine “Value = Quality – Cost”?
If yes, then design your message through the SOAPEE lens with checkmarks for each dimension. If no, tailor your message once you’ve uncovered how they define the metrics for determining value. This is important if you’re preparing for a hospital value analysis opportunity. Keep in mind, stakeholders don’t have the time to interpret what you’re trying to say and if they don’t understand the value of your solution on the first pass you’re in jeopardy of being passed over.

4) What is driving the biggest need for your transformational change?
The strategic plan lists several reasons why SMH needs to change. You should be able to rank them in order of importance.

5) How would SMH define a successful implementation of innovative technology?
This information is critical if you want to understand the financial, clinical and operational pathway for technological innovation.

Everything you’ve done to this point has been about completing a fact based analysis. The next step is to put it all together.

STEP 3 Align your communication tools and increase performance

1) Improve your dialogue
Translate your insight into key talking points that engage your key customers. This is done by demonstrating your awareness of their strategy, metrics for measuring quality and transformational journey.

2) Develop a clear message
Develop your message so that it aligns with the transformational journey. For example, messages should connect with financial, clinical and operational objectives in order for stakeholders to be satisfied with your solution.

3) Align your marketing tools
Make it relevant! Align your tools so they connect with both clinical and non-clinical stakeholders.

Knowing as much as you can about the strategic direction of the hospitals that you’re targeting will elevate your success level by demonstrating to stakeholders that you are insightful, relevant and engaged. Remember, access to hospital stakeholders will continue to decline so you better have more than discussion points about product or service features and benefits.

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Lorna Coutoulas is the Manager SPD, Southlake Regional Health Centre. Michael Knapp is the Director Customer Insights for Commix Communications Inc.
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