Healthcare Technology Featured Article

April 23, 2020

How to Get New Tech into Hospitals and Healthcare Facilities

What’s harder than inventing disruptive new technologies? Getting them into the hands of people who can fully utilize those technologies. COVID-19 has disrupted this process, but the adoption cycle is still challenging in any industry.

In my time at WISER Systems, Inc. I’ve worked with companies ranging from universities to film studios to manufacturers to medical research labs, each of them working to implement new-to-the-world technologies. This experience has taught me a few practical principles that can be especially helpful in navigating this process with healthcare organizations:

  1. Find a champion or a channel partner.
  2. Test, retest, and retest again. Only promise what you can deliver.
  3. Get feedback from the front line—and from people behind the scenes.
  4. Be patient.
  5. Talk about risk mitigation.
  6. Recognize where healthcare is different from other industries and where it’s the same.

It’s worth pointing out that most of these ideas apply to all industries. That said, getting new technologies into hospitals and healthcare facilities can be uniquely difficult—and as we’re seeing right now, it can also be critical.

1. Find a champion or a channel partner

One of the best ways to get in the door is with the help of someone on the other side. Most of WISER’s projects in healthcare settings have begun with these kinds of partners—champions or channel partners that know the terrain.

This isn’t unique to healthcare settings, but it’s particularly helpful given the complex, regulated landscape here. Whether you’re working with someone with their feet on the ground in a hospital, someone who has implemented new medical technologies before, or just someone who knows the organization better than you do, it pays to have a partner or a champion at your side.

An internal champion can tell you who makes purchasing decisions. They can advocate for your solution both up and down the service chain and bring you in under their wing to do presentations, tests, or tech demos. They can be especially helpful when it comes to understanding the regulations, certifications, purchasing cycles, end-user training, and many many ethical issues at work in a healthcare setting. This kind of champion is motivated to help, because they are working to fill an existing gap or solve a particular problem.

That’s not to say that your champion has to be the purchasing director or someone at the C-Suite level in a healthcare organization.It could be a doctor who recognizes the need for new technology, or an IT professional who sees a way to improve user experience. An external partner with similar expertise can often help you see around the corner as well. In short, this could be almost anyone who knows the way and can guide your steps.

So how do you find a contact like this? This will depend on your own business, but we’ve found ours in the same way we find customers and partners in other industries:networking events, tradeshows, conferences, and even old-fashioned cold calls. Not every sales and marketing tactic is industry-proof, but people in healthcare are not so different from people elsewhere, so making a professional connection doesn’t have to be much different either.

2. Test, retest, and retest again. Only promise what you can deliver.

One of the first things I learned about doing business with healthcare companies is that nearly every healthcare provider has been burned by insufficient technology before. My company went out offering real-time location systems—technology that companies have been promising for decades. As it happens, quite a few hospitals have invested in systems somewhat like ours at some point and most were disappointed with the results.For example, hospital RTLS systems typically can’t tell definitively which bed a doctor visited in in a room.

As a consequence, companies in 2020 are still trying to rebuild the trust lost by older, technologies. Many of the leading companies in our field didn’t exist back then, but hospitals remember the expense, hassle, and system failures they experienced when past solutions were over-promised.

If you want to be a good member of the medical technology ecosystem, test your solution as much as you can before promising it. Green-lighting solutions that don’t work can hurt not just you, not just your customers, but countless companies trying to innovate and solve problems in healthcare.

3. Get feedback from the front line—and from people behind the scenes.

Some companies tell us that they let the people on the ground make their most important decisions. Others work from a strategic throne at corporate HQ. Healthcare as a whole isn’t like either of these models.

For some context, think about hospital administration. CIOs and financial decision-makers aren’t always medical doctors. A number of them hold degrees in hospital administration, but more general credentials like the MBA are also very common. Now think about the medical staff that deliver a hospital’s core services. Most of them went specifically through nursing school, medical school, residency programs, or even fellowships. Their training is often highly specific—and many of them are better compensated than the administrators who make organizational decisions on their behalf.

This gives healthcare an especially unique dynamic. As such, this can make it especially important to work from both ends when trying to get tech into healthcare facilities. Reaching out to medical staff on what we could call the ‘customer-facing’ side of the organization can be just as valuable as connecting with administrators, support staff, and technology teams working out of immediate sight.

It’s not hard to find healthcare cases where technology can help. We’ve heard lots of ideas from doctors and nurses on the ground. For instance, they tell us that they regularly look for IV pumps, or that their hospital’s wheelchairs are hoarded in just one or two closets, and we can see ways to address these problems.

However, these doctors and nurses aren’t the ones who select or purchase a solution. They’re rarely involved in decisions like this, for some good reasons. First and foremost, they have work to do that other people can’t do for them, work like creating treatment plans or performing surgery. Second, ethical measures in healthcare often require several levels of oversight.

Pointing to real-life problems in customer-facing work is often enough to show a solution’s ROI. So, it pays off to get buy-in for your technology both from the people on the front lines and the many channels behind the scenes.

4. Be patient.

Despite the enormous number of possible puns here, there’s really not much to say about this.

Patience is a good value for doing business in any industry where testing, validating, approving, and purchasing might take time. It’s an essential virtue in an industry requiring clinical trials and peer review. Then there’s the fact that the most honored medical professionals have spent 10-15 years of higher education and training getting ready for their careers—often working 60+, 70+, or even 80+ hours per week during several of those years. Furthermore, medical professionals are often dealing with people at their most vulnerable, so it’s not surprising that they encounter plenty of impatience (pun intended in this case).

So, don’t sprint ahead of the starting pistol. Even pandemics don’t nullify the need for patience.

5. Talk about risk mitigation.

This can be a surprisingly taboo subject in some business circles, but healthcare providers mustdiscuss it often. They also face more real, weighty risks than most industries are accustomed to looking in the eye. This is part of why it’s so hard to get new tech into their hands. Medical professionals tend to take their commitment to protecting patients very seriously, for which we can all be grateful.

Because of this, I’ve found that decision-makers in healthcare organizations are often especially willing or even eager to talk openly about risks and risk mitigation tactics. I have yet to meet a medical professional who didn’t appreciate candor where new risks and ideas for risk management were concerned. Similarly, having this kind of conversation is an amazingly helpful way to get to understand your potential customer.

6. Recognize where healthcare is different from other industries and where it’s the same.

Although this is really a summary of all the previous points, this is still easier said than done.

First, it’s worth noting that healthcare organizations typically have different values than other businesses. Take for instance the Hippocratic Oath’s stance on sharing research and protecting privacy. It’s not hard to find companies with very different agendas.

Next, it’s helpful to remember that professional hierarchy takes a different shape in healthcare than in other industries. Popular TV might make it seem like doctors and nurses make all the important decisions here, but there are still armies of supply chain, IT, maintenance, and administrative staff working hard behind the scenes. Also, this isn’t an industry where someone’s likely to start as an ultrasound tech, get promoted to be head of radiology, and then find a spot as COO. The extremely high value of individual expertise and training in healthcare typically means that people stay in their lane of expertise.

Another difference: Even taking the time to vacate a room and put in new equipment can be a risk for many healthcare organizations, since hospital space is at a premium and there’s almost no such thing as downtime for a medical facility. Healthcare facilities also have a constant influx of new visitors and patients. This is a stark contrast to many other businesses that only welcome visitors in certain areas or only see new faces occasionally. As a result, it’s especially important to be sure that new technologies don’t add new concerns or hazards for people who aren’t trained in their use.

Related to this, I’ve found that many healthcare organizations are much more concerned about appearances and other aesthetic concerns when introducing new tech. This might seem inconsequential on the surface, but it’s hard to overestimate the value of making patients and visitors feel safe and comfortable in hospitals.

In the end It should still be no surprise that hospitals are business ventures too. Financial constraints are just as real for hospitals as they are for manufacturers or restaurant chains, retailers, wireless service providers, or nearly any other type of company. But healthcare doesn’t work without people who are zealously, specifically devoted to the values of their industry. Most other industries can and do.

In Sum

Healthcare is an innovative industry. There will probably always be gaps for new technologies. As such, technology implementation to fill those gaps will likely change rapidly.

I’ve summarized what I’ve learned in the past few years. What have you seen work?

About the author: Stephen Taylor is the Director of Communications at WISER Systems, Inc., an ultra-wideband (UWB) provider of precise localization. When he's not at work, he likes to jam on his violin, write creatively, or wander through the forest. Someday he'll try all three things at once.

Edited by Ken Briodagh
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Stephen Taylor, Director of Communications, WISER Systems ,


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