Why Healthcare Organizations Take So Long to Make Buying Decisions and How We Can Fix It (Part 2 of 4 - Misalignment) (HIStalk)

(as seen in HIStalk Reader's Write on September 27, 2017)

As any industry observer knows, health systems continue to consolidate in an attempt to ensure their viability given unprecedented financial and operational pressures.  Many organizations struggle to fully leverage their scale post-merger. Most often the difficulty is to align focus, priorities, internal knowledge. and industry experience across the expanded team as they integrate.  

Misalignment is usually the main contributor to the length of the sales and purchasing process. Too often people fall in love with a PRODUCT without first clearly defining the PROBLEM they seek to solve. This challenge is exacerbated by complex purchasing decisions that require collaboration across multiple stakeholders to make the right choices.

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My 16 year-old daughter, Lily, recently got her driver’s license and immediately spent lots of time and energy looking to buy a car (product). Much to her chagrin, the head of home operations (my wife) and the economic buyer (me) defined the problem as our daughter needing transportation, and buying a new car was only one of several options for us to address this issue. As we considered how to best solve her transportation problem weighed against other family priorities, we decided to simply get Lily an Uber account and an extra key to use our cars when available.

The same disconnect happens every day in healthcare. So much sales activity and investment are squandered on potential buyers who are only empowered to say no — not yes — to an actual buying decision. With the best of intentions, they may not be aware they are wasting time pursuing deals that will never come to fruition. Just like the sales guy at the car lot with my daughter.

By first defining the problem and enabling appropriate enterprise visibility, we can avoid projects that are misaligned with organizational priorities.  Further, we may also discover that due to poor or fragmented communication, we are pursuing a project where:

  • An organizational decision on how to address this problem has already been made.
  • Others within the same organization are already pursuing a similar project in parallel.
  • The organization already owns existing products, best practices, or internal resources that should be compared as an alternative to buying something new

In working with many health systems to design a solution to this common inefficiency, we borrowed concepts from established solutions we all now use to make buying decisions in our personal lives (Amazon, Airbnb, Yelp, Angie’s List, Pinterest, TrueCar, Zillow, etc.) Healthcare organizations need a better, digital way to define and share the ideas or projects they are considering, to detail objectives, success measures, categories, budgets, timelines, etc. to promote transparency and alignment. 

Additionally, while vendors use a CRM like Salesforce to track their sales activity with prospective and current clients, health systems do not have a similar system to capture and coordinate buying activity with the vendor community (and Salesforce is too complex to serve that purpose for buyers). Gaining visibility into past and current interactions and assessments of vendors and their products is essential to unify knowledge across diverse stakeholders.

As we focus as an industry on important topics like care coordination, healthcare organizations must also apply coordination to implement modern tools and processes that achieve the efficiency and alignment needed to make better decisions faster regarding vendor partners.

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Bruce Brandes
Founder and CEO, Lucro

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