By Trisha Leon, contributing writer
Business Solutions 2014 Partner Program Insider gave industry experts the opportunity to share their opinions on common mistakes VARs, MSPs, integrators, or software developers make when selling to customers in the healthcare vertical.
According to those who offered opinions, one of the biggest mistakes VARs make is not fully understanding the needs of healthcare industry, especially regarding compliance issues. Robert Laughlin, president of Galaxy Control Systems says in healthcare where there are stringent compliance issues to be addressed, “Resellers need to be up to speed on this specific vertical market requirements to be successful.”
COO of iboss Network Security, Peter Martini, agrees. “The biggest mistake we see is VARs, MSPs, and integrators not fully understanding the unique needs of the healthcare industry. Channel entities sell products across many industries and there is a mentality that the sales approach is the same for all. Healthcare organizations have similar issues and challenges but their specific needs — as they relate to security — is unique due to compliance and other factors. It’s critical that VARs, MSPs and integrators do their due diligence and address this industry’s unique needs. Solutions providers also make the mistake of not taking the time to reassess customers’ rapidly changing network security architecture. This ensures the products in place are extending compliance to the new technologies they are facing.”
Terry Cruikshank, senior marketing manager of industry marketing at OKI Data Americas points out another common error. “One common mistake would be for resellers to assume that with the move to electronic health records (EHRs) that printing and paper use is going down. In fact, with this transition, it has increased due to the need to back everything up with traditional hard copies in the event of computer system failures. Additionally, the healthcare industry, specifically, is a specialized field. Vendors should be familiar with the processes and regulations prior to engaging with the healthcare organizations.”
Several responses dealt with solutions providers not understanding the complexity of the healthcare vertical. Eddie Franklin, vice president of sales in public sector and vertical markets at SYNNEX Corporation, says, "From a vertical perspective, healthcare has immense complexity. Many VARs want to reach into the space but find themselves adrift a sea of jargon, regulations, and compliance terminology and find that the financial and transactional aspects of health care are much different than other business segments.” He adds, “VARs need to ensure clients in this space understand what they are investing in today may need to be upgraded or added to in the very near future. Delivering solutions with an understanding that more change is on the way and doing so in a way that leaves financial flexibility for clients will ensure customer retention in the long run."
VP of Global Channels at Carbonite, David Maffei, also comments on the complexity of the market, not only because of new HIPAA guidelines, but also because of the number of categories within the healthcare industry and their specific technology needs. “From my perspective, it is best to focus on one or two areas of the industry and develop the knowledge to provide organizations the best value. For example, compliant backup methods are vital to healthcare organizations for HIPAA compliance. It would be a wise move for channel partners to focus on serving the small businesses within healthcare, such as small practice physicians and the accounting firms that work with them, first, since they are the most vulnerable under the new HIPAA guidelines. They lack the resources and need the support to remain compliant. It’s about becoming an expert resource in the areas where support is needed most.”
Doug Brown, vertical marketing manager of Honeywell Scanning and Mobility says, “As you look to the new converged device trend don’t shy away from complexity.” He encourages solutions providers to “contribute to a CIO’s peace of mind by helping them understand the pros and cons of the choices in the market. VAR’s and integrators must be willing to ‘get your hands dirty’ and learn about products that you may never sell in order to become that trusted advisor.”
Several people pointed out misunderstandings about the role security plays in healthcare’s IT infrastructure. Steve Surfaro, security industry liaison at Axis Communications says, “Healthcare facilities offer a suite of varied services to their community and it may be difficult for some systems integrators to fully comprehend how the systems they sell will ultimately be used. For example, if a medical doctor is expected for a critical case, they may not use their access control card for entry, so the security force may need to use the video surveillance system to detect their vehicle upon entry.”
Gadi Piran, president of OnSSI, adds, “The infrastructure in the majority of healthcare facilities is typically defined as an IT function — not a security function — even though video surveillance and other security systems reside on network infrastructure. Working relationships need to be established with security personnel to define surveillance and security objectives, as well as with IT personnel to determine the best means of implementing the appropriate solutions.”
Knowing who the decision makers are at a healthcare facility can be a difficultly as well. Nathan Lord, product manager of ScanSource POS and Barcode says, “A mistake is targeting the wrong decision maker. This one is especially tricky in healthcare because the decision maker can vary from one facility (or even department) to the next. In addition, the decision maker you are working with may just be offering a recommendation to leadership for a final decision. In some instances, leadership may still go the direction they want to regardless of recommendations. The key here is to engage with as many people involved in the process as possible to develop the relationships
Ajay Jain, president/CEO of Quantum Secure comments, “It is imperative to coordinate efforts with multiple decision makers within healthcare organizations including IT, security, human resources and compliance management. This can be a daunting task that requires specific knowledge of hospital operations unlike typical facility installations.”
More mistakes industry leaders believe VARs make in regard to the IT healthcare market are related to assumptions about budget, compliance, and technology trends. National sales and marketing manager of JVC, John Grabowski, says, “One misconception is that large healthcare facilities have large budgets. Although this may be true relative to an actual dollar amount budgeted for IT infrastructure and systems, the scope of the deployment can quickly eat up funds. This is where system design and implementation innovations can make the difference between making and losing the sale.”
Joan Morales, director of channel marketing at Axcient, says, “The common mistake we see MSPs, VARs and integrators making when approaching healthcare organizations is to focus only on compliance. Sure, compliance is a requirement but to really differentiate yourself from everyone else in the market you have to show the value of IT and the value added you as a technology advisor brings to the equation. Make sure to highlight your experience in the industry by naming similar organizations and how you helped them with certain challenges. More than ever, a consultative approach is necessary when engaging the healthcare industry.”
Laura Henderson, general manager of TEKLYNX, says a common mistake she sees is not staying ahead of trends. “Sellers and developers need to stay on the cutting edge, enhancing and developing solutions based on customer feedback, emerging regulations, and new markets to ensure our mutual customers are receiving the service and support they need.”