Today we’re going to take a vertical focus and continue a conversation that we started in our last episode about healthcare. When we were together last time, we talked about the industry as a whole and how the pandemic was impacting demand.

Today we’re going to take a deeper dive into the provider segment of healthcare and talk specifically about sellers and how you can help your customers and prospects in the provider space move from being reactive to more proactive when it comes to digital transformation.

To help us think through that, we’re pleased to have Ed with us. Ed has over 25 years of CIO and CDO experience in healthcare systems. He was recently CIO of the renowned Cleveland Clinic, and he’s currently CEO of the HCI group, which is an IT consulting firm that is focused on healthcare.

Here are four key takeaways from the conversation:

1. Tough year, obviously, for just huge segments of healthcare, but the overall tone of the conversation was very positive. There’s a lot of opportunity for the salespeople who are wanting to go about it the right way. We talked about the fact that health care is traditionally, a little bit behind when it comes to technology, no secret there, but they’ve made up some ground this year, but still lots of ground to cover.

2. We focused on two big pain areas that would be opportunities for sellers. One’s backend, so the infrastructure space, the ability to move into cloud, digital communications, interoperability, all of those things are still huge pain points for hospital systems. Then we also talked about the opposite, the front end and consumerism, and the fact that the patient experience has become such an important part of people’s worlds. They’ve got a little taste of it this year with telehealth, but there still isn’t a common platform. The experience is very disjointed, a bit inelegant, and lots of opportunities.

3. There’s a tremendous amount of disruption happening now in the industry. If you’re thinking about positioning your products in how to go forward, the downside, if they do nothing or continue to remain behind, is that they’re going to lose business to retailers and payers. There are other people that are eating away at the traditional healthcare system business. We envision there might be continued consolidation, which means not everybody’s going to survive that. As a result, you may end up with a much smaller commercial model. There are definitely some monetary reasons, some commercial model reasons, why these prospects and customers in your territory should act on those two things.

4. Then we finished up our conversation with a bit of advice for sellers and part of that was to take into account the culture of these customers and prospects by the nature of what they do being life and death. They’re a little risk-averse, right? They tend to be insular. They tend to be a little nervous and may be unaware of what things can do. The beauty of all that is that creates this incredible opportunity for a salesperson to be a trusted advisor because, in your role as a seller, you can bring in experts from other industries, other clients who have been digital-first and can help explain that and show lessons learned. It removes some of the risks for these clients for you.

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Panel Discussion Highlights

Q:

One thing that sellers hear a lot is that healthcare is notorious for being just a bit behind the curve when it comes to digital transformation. On the flip side, Microsoft CEO recently spoke about two years of digital transformation being accomplished in two months. How much did healthcare recover? How much of that did they overcome over because of this year?

A:

I would agree that healthcare has been behind for many, many reasons. I would make these guesses with my peer group of around 10, and we all guessed around five to seven years behind. We did make up some ground, no doubt as such Satya pointed out. Two years and two months is pretty accurate. We’re still behind, but we made up some ground. What really needs to happen now though is for us to take hold of what’s happened, make the best of this horrid situation, but from a digital point of view, really leverage it to close that gap and catch up with the rest of the world and other industries.

Q:

What are some of the things that are left on the to-do list?

A:

There’s really two broad areas. One is on the infrastructure side, right? We were really slow to adopt the cloud, right? Today, that’s just, of course, every everything’s cloud enabled, but healthcare still really slow. There’s still many, many healthcare organizations using fax machines to exchange information. Interoperability is an area where we still struggle with. Pagers are still used. The whole infrastructure area has a long ways to go. We made major investments, spent a lot of precious capital on building data centers. Imagine that. All these different hospitals, 6,000 of them in the United States alone, not all of them have their own data center, but many of them do and just their requirements for that. When today it’s really a commodity that can be sourced and move to the cloud and all those sorts of things. That’s one broad area.

The second one is consumerism, the experience, the engagement. In healthcare, consumer experience is still pretty bad. Even if you’re in the same health system, you might have four or five different digital front doors that you still have to navigate. There was one health system, which proudly had these giant banners as you walked into their very large campus. One of them said, “Hey, great news. You can download this app and get all your clinical information and learn what your results are,” and things like that. Then there was another banner. These are literally all four together. Another banner was like, “You can pay your bills online, so we take the fuss out of paying bills, you can do it all online. Here’s another app.” Oh yeah. We know the hospital’s confusing, so this is the third one. “You can download this app for way finding,” and you realize that they don’t really know you that well yet. It’s not personalized.

That’s where we really need to close the gap, is that whole experience, the whole engagement. It’s too late for, I don’t want to jump too far ahead here, but it’s too late for healthcare systems to know the person once they’re a patient. They should know that patient long before they’re a patient and they’re a person in the community to help them with wellness and just healthy living and things like that. Those are the two major areas, really the infrastructure piece, which is probably the most obvious, but really where we really need to get to the whole experience.

Q:

What’s the downside for healthcare if they don’t get the patient experience right?

A:

It’s becoming a very, very competitive landscape. In the, what I’ll say the old days, you had a community and you had a hospital and the hospital was one of the foundations of the community. That’s where everyone went to for healthcare. All the physicians were aligned. You’d still have independent physicians, but they’ll use that hospital. They had privileges at that hospital and there was a really nice ecosystem.

There wasn’t any digital first players out there that were infringing on your region, on your city. There wasn’t anything in terms of real competition, but today, there is probably three or four new entrants that are completely disrupting the traditional model. If health systems, hospitals don’t react more quickly, they will be completely disintermediated. An example would be retail. What you’re seeing today, and if I look around my neighborhood, a mile and a half away, there’s a CVS and that CVS, they just redid their entire store to make more of the square footage, all about medical care. Not only are they taking a digital first approach, but they’re also establishing these clinics, so now you’ve got to contend with retail. And that’s a big new entrant.

The other one is payers. Payers are getting wise also, and they’re realizing, that there’s a lot of inefficiencies in the way healthcare is handled today between providers and payers. Why don’t we just make sure our covered lives, the people that we cover with insurance products, have the best healthcare and wellness. Some of them have the largest practices in the world in terms of clinicians. A lot of them now are creating their own digital front doors. They’re creating their own telemedicine capabilities. They are directly competing with the hospitals. Now the physicians’ loyalties are really split, not only between different health systems that might exist in that particular region, but now where do they practice? Who do they align with; the payer, the provider? It’s completely disrupted, completely changed.

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