Device-IT marriage requires new culture

By Michael Minton
12:00 AM
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The marriage of medical devices and clinical information technology systems is frustrating providers and raising an entire new set of challenges for both sets of vendors.

Vendors succeed when they offer solutions to providers instead of products. That's becoming much more difficult as solution sets increasingly cross traditional technology, departmental and business unit boundaries. This trend complicates the provider's ability to make an informed buying decision – and a vendor's sales operations.

As clinical IT systems become more common at the point of care, new medical devices are increasingly designed to interact with them. Recognizing this shift, hospitals are moving biomed departments to IT and looking to clinical informaticists for guidance where devices, IT and clinical workflow meet.

Point-of-care systems can eat up a clinician's time. Potential improvements in workflow gained by the interaction of devices and clinical systems has the promise of gaining some of that precious time back, while improving patient care and safety.

This raises a problem for many vendors. Solution selling suddenly involves explaining how their product will interact with other vendors' systems and devices and their collective effect on clinical workflow.

Meanwhile, clinicians are still scratching their heads. They understand the promise of this marriage, but no one's in the right place to tell them the possibilities or limitations.

All this has serious ramifications for vendors still selling stand-alone product sets. They will see unexplained slowdowns in sales cycle time, increasingly inaccurate forecasting and market share erosion or stagnation. This often happens in spite of innovative product introductions, not because they aren't well designed, but because the solution's potential isn't adequately presented.

Find a Partner
Successful strategic alliances between device and IT vendors can bring incremental expertise and shared insight to both parties if carefully designed and actively managed. Learning the other side's story and crafting credible solutions, even if not offered in formal joint products, allows each party to better address market needs.Device and IT business units within a single large vendor often find internal issues and differing product strategies make it difficult for them to work together. They should manage their relationship as they would any third-party strategic partner, or look elsewhere if the corporate fit isn't tight enough.

Changing the Sales Culture
This shift in the market offers considerable opportunities for vendors willing to adapt their cultures to fit the need for broader solution selling. It's clear providers recognize the potential of technology and need help from vendors in seeking solutions to some very tough problems.

Clinical systems are growing, and may get a real boost as the government puts some teeth behind some of the recent talk. So this marriage is likely to last and create an extended family of opportunity and issues.As always, vendors who have the ability to thoroughly understand the environment their products inhabit – and an ability to consistently articulate innovative solutions – will continue to grow and prosper.

Michael J. Minton is founder of Waypoint Technology Partners, LLC. He can be reached via email (mminton@waypttech.com) or phone at (847) 332-1620.