Decision Making: The Constant Struggle (part 3a of 3)

We are lucky enough to have Steve Sisko, the HIT blog/social phenomenon, in digital form for the next two weeks! We’ll be diving into health system decision making and how they choose vendor partners, discussing what can be done now to minimize pain points together.

Intro to Steve & why we like him:

With 20+ years of experience serving multiple roles in the healthcare, information technology and advisory services trades: Steve brings a unique perspective and deep subject matter expertise unfettered by allegiance to any specific commercial entity or particular product set Intense curiosity, extensive research skills and over three decades of evolving healthcare business and technical skills afford Steve with the unique healthcare data, technology and services competences needed to thrive in today’s digitally focused healthcare environment. Learn more about Steve’s knowledge, skills and experience at his website:

Q & A

Lucro (L): Steve, you have been in the healthcare IT game a long time. How did you get your start?

Steve (S): I started working in 1982 as a COBOL programmer and I’ve worked exclusively in the healthcare industry since 1993. Over these 20+ years in healthcare I’ve worked for health systems, providers, health plans, healthcare software vendors, and consulting firms. I’ve also been self-employed and successfully developed and sold a healthcare product in 1999 that’s still in use today. I’ve seen so much happen in healthcare and I’m excited about the transformation currently underway today.

L: How do you stay sane?

S: What makes you think I’m sane? But seriously, I credit a combination of my life partner and wife of 37 years, each of my four kids and a strong belief in a Higher Power as the buoys and motivation that keep me inline and sane. I’m intensely curious, an avid reader and a data hoarder so I’m always focused on something and don’t have time for insanity.

L: Right now you’re mostly focused on the marketing side of healthcare IT, while working with large vendors. Given your experiences, how do you think vendors can accelerate purchasing decisions?

S: I’ve been involved with vendor identification, selection, negotiations, implementation and ongoing support activities for the greater part of my career. I believe there are two important considerations for vendors wanting to accelerate decision making related to creating and selling products and services for the healthcare space:

1. Support Customer’s Ability to Learn on Their Own

According to the 2014 State of B2B Procurement study from the Acquity Group, 94% of business buyers do some form of online research when it comes to making a purchase. And 57% of the purchase decision is complete before a customer even calls a supplier (CEB).

If a vendor doesn’t supply the breadth of content needed to satisfy their customers need for information, then they’re at an immediate disadvantage. Digital content archives can educate customers throughout the buying cycle, should accommodate individual purchase preferences, and be available via the channels and format individual stakeholders prefer. 

2. Minimize Complexity

Healthcare is complex. And new technologies being used by startups and established healthcare vendors are not easily understood either. To play off the old saying about two wrongs not making a right: combining two complex subjects does not equal simplicity. The last thing a vendor should do is to present their product as being all things to all companies. While choice itself isn’t bad, providing too many options - without a comprehensive strategy that aligns your customer’s business, commercial and technical considerations - will likely slow down decision making.

Note: Coincidently, this idea of accelerating decision making by reducing options was presented in Part 2 of this series under the topic of Obscuring Complexity.

L: How can health systems improve on buying cycle timeframes?

S: The need to be able to rapidly become aware of product and service opportunities, perform research and comparison activities necessary to vet vendors, make a formal decision, and then complete contract and purchase process has rendered traditional healthcare product purchase approaches ineffective. There are just too many changing business opportunities, uncertain regulations, and potential stumbling blocks along the journey. And there’s also the non-trivial aspect of implementing new solutions and deriving maximum value from their proper configuration and ongoing operation.

Healthcare Buying Cycle

Here are some considerations for those wanting to improve buying cycle timeframes:

1. Identify Your ‘No-Go Triggers’

Often times a company can accelerate the product selection process via the process of elimination. By having a short list of key criteria that must be met – or avoided at all costs – you can often quickly whittle your list of potential products down to a manageable set. This idea of knowing your exit criteria was shared in Step 2 in Part 1 of this series.

2. Leverage the Work of Others

As noted above, forward-thinking vendors should be sharing detailed information about their products and services so that customers can self serve as many of their information needs as possible. If you think a prospective vendor should be providing specific information on their products and services and you can’t find anything; ask them for the information. How they respond should be telling in itself. If a vendor can’t provide the best information and assistance on its products, either directly to you or via a 3rd party, who can?

The numerous online forums, discussion groups, associations, thought leaders, bloggers, vendor user groups and other channels sharing information on specific vendors and their offerings are another great source of information that should be leveraged. In addition to traditional research organizations like Gartner, KLASBlackBook, and Chilmark, new entrants like Lucro and other healthcare-related associations are offering information and tools to help connect healthcare organizations with vendor offerings, products and services.

As Picasso stated “Good artists borrow, great artists steal.” There’s no good reason not to be aggressive in leveraging what already exists and leaning on 3rd parties and others.

3. Involve Everyone Early On – Or Not

One common reason for an elongated buying cycle is that people are involved in the buying cycle when they shouldn’t be or people responsible for and/or impacted by the ultimate decision being made are not involved or brought in too late. Like having too many options to consider when making a decision, having too many people involved in any decision can slow the process down. Different company cultures, personalities, budget size, and a host of other factors all impact which people will ultimately be involved. Ideally, keeping all stakeholders sufficiently apprised throughout the buying cycle should be the goal. Who should be involved in the buying cycle is a topic worthy of a future discussion.

Some other considerations for improving buying cycle timeframes include the following:

  • Whenever possible, break up each stage of the buying cycle into sub-parts that can be completed in parallel by different resources and reassembled at the end of the particular stage.
  • Plan for potential turnover. What happens if key members leave prior to a planned checkpoint?
  • Reduce number of systems and interfaces that the product or service will have to interoperate with.

Check back next week to see where Steve thinks the rubber meets the road on tough decisions and a bigger view of the landscape!


Do you have any questions or comments? Feel free to post below!


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Denise Hicks
Client Happiness Extraordinaire, Lucro

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