Hospitals and health systems can take a while to make a digital health decision, but a lot more goes into the process than you may initially believe. There are many avenues or steps that an organization must take when making a large financial decision, particularly when it will also greatly affect end-users, like patients or hospital staff. Being aware of the major steps in this process can help you provide more information up-front and minimize the length of time you wait for a sale.
What do they look for?
When health organizations are looking at making a purchasing decision, they want to look for something that is both cost-effective and will meet the needs they have. Often this is done by completing what is called a needs assessment. Five main steps are completed during a needs assessment, which can give the organization or health system more detailed information on what they are looking to purchase.
- Step one: Target population, resources, risks, and what the system is trying to achieve
- Step two: Collecting data and identifying determinant factors
- Step three: Determining interventions and actions
- Step four: Creating a plan, evaluation/risk management strategies, and monitoring methods
- Step five: Completion of project and measuring impacts
When completing these assessments, they can better analyze what they need and the resources they require to fulfill that need. As a seller, knowing the format or information of these assessments can assist in marketing your digital health products to your key audience. The needs assessments can be time intensive and contribute to the difficulty of making health decisions.
Perhaps one of the biggest barriers to making a procurement decision in the healthcare industry is engaging with all the appropriate stakeholders. Stakeholders are a set of individuals who are involved in decision-making, many of whom may have competing priorities. Some of the more common stakeholders involved in these decisions include:
- Board members: focused on the quality of care, financial impacts to the organization, and strategies planning
- Executives: Hospital executives can include a Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Chief Clinical Officer (CCO), and/or a Chief Experience Officer (CXO). Executives usually analyze the daily operation and new initiatives.
- Administrators: The backbone of the company, administrators manage daily operations and departments. These often manage budgeting and policy and are a critical player in hospital procurement.
- Physicians: When it comes to making decisions, physicians have been known to have the most influence overall. Since they work directly with patients and other stakeholders, they can often provide practical insight and clinical guidance on policies or purchases.
- Department heads: Purchases directly affect those who work with them, so Directors or departments are included in many of these discussions. This can include those in the IT departments, diagnostic services, support services, therapy, psychology, or other departments. They may also be specific to each purchase or decision.
- Additional staff: Nurses or other staff members may also be consulted with policy or purchase decisions, since they may be the end-user with things like health information, records, or educating patients on new technology.
Some stakeholders may be more focused on updating technology, while others prioritize patient care. You can have some staff members who want to focus on specific data sets, like the number of admissions or length of time in the emergency room, while other stakeholders want to decrease the cost of each admission. These competing interests are a large contributor to how long it takes to make a healthcare decision.
After the needs assessment and key stakeholders have been engaged, the identified responsible party (often administrators) will need to begin researching the product they intend to purchase. This could be done by going to conferences, webinars, searching online, networking, or data collection. A study completed by Google showed that over half of hospital administrators look online for new technologies and vendors, with 94% looking at product features via a search engine. A few findings include:
- 63% of those interviewed stated they watch the product perform a procedure, and ALL of the participants stated they watch online videos to see demonstrations
- 68% of vendors use the web to compare products
- After watching a video, 42% will request a proposal
- 30% read peer reviews and testimonials
This research gives us valuable insight into what can be included when pitching a sale or encouraging a purpose among healthcare systems. For example, if we are aware that administrators prefer to watch videos, we can use that to ensure this is readily available on a website. Similarly, product comparisons can be done beforehand. Research can take time to complete, especially on a larger purchase where something specific is required. Administrators will likely reach out to multiple vendors to compare prices and quality and take proposals back to the appropriate stakeholders.
Implementation and compliance
When considering a digital health product, healthcare organizations will need to look at how to implement the product and ensure it is compliant with healthcare guidelines. While this is a later part of the purchase process, it is a critical step that can sway a decision. For example, an organization needs to be sure they are HIPAA compliant, meaning that any data collection and storage have consent from patients and are secure. When a healthcare entity is employing something new, they need to be sure it is compliant with any other regulatory laws and will not affect things like their accreditation or auditing. Similarly, when looking at implementing a new product, organizations need to consider cybersecurity and information sharing. These issues are often addressed with compliance and/or IT department, which can lend healthcare organizations insight as to the safety of the product.