Delivering Winning Healthcare Proposals — Stat

Improving and saving lives, as well as delivering new ones into the world, are all essential duties doctors and nurses within healthcare facilities provide 24/7/365. The very existence of our society depends upon it. 

Presenting communities with a safe, accessible, reliable and secure patient experience is also essential, and effective communication is critical to making this happen. Checking into the hospital or clinic for a consultation or medical procedure as well as leaving with a follow-up appointment and/or prescription requires digital and print technology to communicate between administrators, doctors, nurses, and patients efficiently and effectively. For example, patients need to walk away with treatment instructions on a printed page while the doctor’s office also keeps track of those instructions electronically.  

Meeting healthcare mandates

Technology, like label and receipt printers as well as multifunction printers and workflow solutions, delivers key functions within any healthcare organization’s IT and EMR infrastructure to ensure patient info is accurate, up-to-date, mobile and secure. That seamless interchange of information allows round-the-clock healthcare provider-to-patient communication while ensuring strict healthcare mandates.

IT equipment within any healthcare setting must comply with HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) while also safeguarding personally identifiable information (PII) and protected healthcare information (PHI). Meeting these mandates facilitates check-in and enables positive and informed bedside care while expediting discharge. For example, scannable patient wristband labels securely communicate information to a hospital’s electronic medical record (EMR) system while mirroring that same data on the individual’s digitized medical chart. 

First sales steps

Sales professionals must familiarize themselves with the distinct needs of various healthcare segments while also affirming their original equipment manufacturing (OEM) offerings comply with the aforementioned regulatory requirements. Moreover, it’s key to identify and reduce any variation to increase efficiency and lessen costs. Also, understand that winning contracts for these larger, heavily regulated organizations oftentimes requires added meetings and approvals.

Be a healthcare advisor

Healthcare officials at all levels expect a consultative approach versus a general features/benefits one. This means you possess a good understanding of their space while asking the right questions. Not doing so is like attending a watch party and not understanding the rules of the contest you’re watching. You’ll stand out for the wrong reasons and the chance of successfully mingling with the audience isn’t great. 

Overcoming challenges

Selling tech gear within healthcare also presents a unique set of challenges due in part to stringent regulatory requirements. Oftentimes, sales pros must win approval from several decision makers, particularly in IT, supply chain and finance. 

Overcoming challenges is understood in sales circles and something such experts accomplish regularly. A particular one in healthcare is upsetting the status quo. Healthcare staff is comfortable using existing technology and reluctant to change. Accordingly, healthcare organizations also become reluctant to change — even if their technology is outdated. And in their business, delays can cost lives so it’s easy to understand this perspective. 

Here’s where sales professionals must step up in key moments. Because healthcare workers aren’t always aware of the positive impact new systems present, you must clearly articulate how your products and solutions will improve their workflow. 

Spell out exactly how your printers, software and services will better enable clinicians, and administrators to better communicate while addressing all compliance guidelines. Even though healthcare professionals are often highly educated, don’t assume they understand the myriad benefits your solutions deliver. It’s your job to inform them. 

Differentiation

Differentiate yourself!  Tout what separates your technology from the rest. If it doesn’t, you’ll have to rely on value pricing. This is not ideal, but necessary if your company’s technology is less than innovative. 

A major point of emphasis for healthcare currently is proactive equipment maintenance. Again, delays can cost lives, or at a minimum decrease patient satisfaction, so minimizing any equipment downtime is necessary. If your company delivers such technology, tell that story!  

Predictive analytics accomplishes this and the benefits to providers are several-fold. It can automate supply delivery, improve device uptime, and, should a problem arise, facilitate rapid response and repair. Such technology is a differentiator for hospitals and clinics and within the year may become a prerequisite.  

Manufacturers with next-gen label printers also set themselves apart. Beyond creating scannable patient wristbands for tracking patient care, these systems allow clinicians to track medical supplies and medications, ensuring administrative accuracy of medicines while securing and maintaining the privacy of patient data in an effective, efficient and affordable manner. 

 Resources

Fortunately, there are lots of free resources to help. Subscribing to industry standards like American Healthcare Leader, Becker’s Hospital Review, Healthcare Purchasing News and The Journal of Healthcare Contracting is a good start. Not all are free, but all are worth the subscription. Some of these publications even deliver daily industry news to your inbox regarding technology, security and regulatory concerns — information from which to develop cogent datapoints for your upcoming presentation.    

You’ll also want to scour targeted healthcare company sites with fervor. Know their number of facilities/locations. Familiarize yourself with the name of the chief executive officer and ideally those of the chief information officer, chief technology officer, chief supply chain officer and chief financial officer too. If they have bios, peruse those. Maybe you have already share something in common such as the same alma mater or hobby?  Such knowledge helps elevate conversations upon any scheduled or unscheduled meetings with these decision makers. 

Read the healthcare entity’s latest news releases. How helpful is it to learn that the organization is opening a new hospital/clinic, building a new wing or hiring additional staff?

Also review your targeted providers’ financial reports, which are available quarterly and annually. These statements are easily accessible via a healthcare company’s site and chockfull of helpful information. You’ll gain insight into the organizations’ key initiatives, areas for improvement and IT spend. 

Seeking to seal a deal with a nonprofit healthcare provider?  While companies within this massive segment (representing about 90% of hospitals in the United States) often don’t readily list financial statements on the internet, the law requires such organizations to make the reports available upon request.  

Though reports list overarching IT budgets, you may have to ask a healthcare representative what they spend on print. Some IT leaders, though not all, will answer this question. The good news is that healthcare GPOs (group purchasing organizations) present a definitive source for print budget specifics within every market segment in this space. So, manufacturers with multiple healthcare GPO partnerships certainly benefit office equipment resellers.   

Articulating key points within a financial report to healthcare representatives may benefit them on multiple levels. Like us, they’re responsible for continuously knocking out projects and/or solving time-sensitive issues. So, they may have yet to learn about their hospital’s hiring spree or plan for a new location.   

Sharing this insight invites a more serious discussion surrounding the technology component of such initiatives. Healthcare IT and finance professionals need to account for the technology requirements for additional staff. 

Encounters like this will spotlight your consultative capabilities. You’re now creating a blueprint to solve that healthcare provider’s IT needs. This is how trusted advisory relationships develop. 

Addressing benchmarks

Financial reports for every healthcare provider in the United States include a CEO summary, which touches on the following four benchmarks: population health, cost of care, customer patient satisfaction and staff satisfaction. The exceeding, meeting, or not meeting, these benchmarks affects how the financial market rates healthcare entities.  

Sales professionals, this is another powerful reason you must clearly underscore how your OEM’s technology enables provider-to-patient communication as well as reduces costs while improving quality and outcomes. Healthcare organizations with hopes of scoring well on the four benchmarks depend on it. Emphasize this message to every healthcare representative you meet to ensure it resonates. Winning or not winning the contract correlates to your success in delivering this message.

Yes, while challenging, delivering winning healthcare proposals is within your grasp. You’ll just need to address these fundamental areas:

  • Do our products and solutions meet such regulations as HIPAA, PII and PHI?  (If they don’t, I suggest tackling other verticals.)   
  • How will our offerings enable providers to facilitate provider-to-patient communication, lessen costs and improve quality and outcomes while also complying with regulatory requirements?
  • Which differentiating elements do our hardware and software feature?

This point is truly key and will separate you from the rest depending on the response. (If nothing comes to mind, you can still win contracts. You’ll just have to do so with value pricing.)

Research. Research. Research. Outwork your competitors in this area. The more familiar you become with the targeted provider, the better chance you’ll dazzle! 

Brian Kohn
Brian Kohn
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Brian Kohn leads business development efforts at Toshiba America Business Solutions for corporate and healthcare enterprises. Recently, Kohn led the effort to secure Toshiba’s award with Vizient, the country's largest member-driven healthcare performance improvement company. He joined Toshiba in 1988. Kohn holds a bachelor’s degree in computer information systems from DeVry University.