Healthcare is a complex sector. It’s unique in its own way in that it juggles driving revenue with the insection of multiple industries, all while maintaining the core focus of its business – patient health and wellness.

What dictates and sets trends in the healthcare IT space more than anything is the end-consumer – the patients themselves.

This focus on patient satisfaction raises many questions within the IT function, such as:

  • How should hospitals and healthcare providers adapt to consumer behaviors? What about digital demands?
  • How can they continuously work to improve the dreaded healthcare cycle for patients – between hospitals, doctors’ visits, complex health care plans, insurance providers, and pharma companies?
  • How can they effectively protect and secure patient information?

These are the big questions that are on healthcare executives’ minds, and they are the questions that trickle down and dictate the IT buying patterns we’re seeing today.

These are boxes that a vendor is going to have to check in order to sell into the highly sensitive and everchanging industry. 

In this post, we’ve connected with our top healthcare advisors at industry-leading companies to give you a guide on how to position a product that is attractive to the healthcare industry and how to build a long-term partnership given the industry’s evolving state.

Healthcare’s Move to the Cloud

When it comes to the solutions and applications being purchased, an emerging trend across the healthcare industry is to downsize what’s in the corporate data centers themselves and move as many applications as possible to the cloud. 

The cloud, seen as a disruptor in the industry today, has become attractive as an agile solution to reduce operational challenges and costs alike. A cloud-enabled solution is not just an attractive factor that healthcare buyers are looking for today, but more often than not, a necessary one.

“If a vendor solution isn’t cloud-enabled, if a vendor solution is not easily consumed, either by the technician supported or the end user, they find themselves in a really difficult position getting in the door.”

Former VP Data Center Services at McKesson

In a recent interview with Emissary, the former Head of Data Analytics & Corporate Technology at Walgreens Boots Alliance discusses Walgreens’ strategic partnership with Microsoft to transition to a cloud-first strategy – shifting not only new transformation systems to the cloud but legacy products as well.

“Since Walgreens merged with Boots Alliance in 2015, there have been many transformation programs in play with the primary goals being: How do we integrate as a global organization to improve visibility and reduce cost? How can we reinvent both the healthcare and retail sectors through solutions that are efficient in the supply chain while also modernizing the retail healthcare experiences of our customers?”

Former Head of Data Analytics & Corporate Technology at Walgreens Boots Alliance

Security & Risk in Health

It’s clear the answer to these challenges lies in the cloud, but vendors should also keep top of mind that healthcare is a sensitive field by nature. There is a vast amount of confidential patient data –  from hospitals, physicians, pharmaceutical companies, and insurance companies – that all needs to be protected internally. 

Steve recalls a common question that was often raised at McKesson: “What is the real security around things that we put in the cloud?” 

Harry, former CIO at CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield elaborates on this pivotal pain point executives are facing – the cybersecurity risks of having patient data in the cloud:

“Healthcare companies can save money by retooling and moving apps to the Cloud, but they can also open up all sorts of security risk if they don’t know what they’re doing. There are opportunities for vendors to help companies migrate and retool their platforms to be cloud ready, as well as to put the appropriate security structures in the cloud so that their data is protected – because that’s been one of the biggest barriers to entry for cloud.”

Former CIO at BlueCross Blue Shield

Harry also addresses another trend in the industry that leads way to opportunity for vendors: a shift from data centers to big data:

“There’s tremendous demand to shift to big data, but there’s also 20 years of people building legacy data warehouses which took a significant investment. It’s not easy to port lift those solutions that feed information to all parts of the company – it’s a complete ground up re-engineering.

This creates the opportunity for vendors, as well as their buyers’ challenges they will have to address. Questions such as: where do you even start? How do you tackle that? How do you get funding for these kinds of things?”

Former CIO BlueCross Blue Shield

Harry indicates that the complexities of these issues aren’t easily solved, but a vendor who has a clear proposition and the propensity to tackle these issues alongside their buyers in the healthcare industry, are likely to land themselves a seat at the table. 

The Typical Healthcare Tech Stack

Healthcare companies today are maintaining a large number of applications across the enterprise. Kaiser, for example, maintains over 10,000  applications across various lines of business. As a result, it is no surprise that a common emerging problem in the industry is business oversight and corporate alignment amongst all of these applications. This has caused an industry trend across IT teams to analyze what applications are being leveraged from a corporate standpoint and where they can cut down to decrease cost. Steve says:

“When you look at the buying culture at McKesson, and around IT, it’s cost, cost, cost. Drive the cost down. And to get whatever value you can out of a deal that’s negotiated.

Former Director of Enterprise Integration Services, Kaiser

Furthermore, it’s important for suppliers to understand and convey to a buyer where and how they would fit into the company’s current infrastructure. Common enterprise vendors in the healthcare space today are IBM, Microsoft, Google, Oracle, and SAS among others. In order to be seen as a viable candidate, suppliers need to be ready to show their ability to integrate with these systems. Another major player in the infrastructure game is Epic – the standard supplier for electronic health records across healthcare. According to Terry, former Director of Enterprise Integration Services at Kaiser,

“If your software doesn’t compliment what they do, you’re going to have problems.”

Former Director of Enterprise Integration Services, Kaiser

The Bottom Line

Before you gear up to approach your buyer and navigate a course of action, it’s crucial you understand the lay of the land and can confidently confirm that both your solution and your team will be a good fit for your target organization.

Check out our next post on selling into the healthcare sector: from navigating the right point of contact to landing and expanding.