Thursday, July 9, 2015

A Marketer's Tale

So as you can imagine, there aren’t too many companies out there in the world that are capable of handling this type of business, and there is one in particular that seems to have a monopolistic hold, creating barriers to entry that smaller competitors must overcome. Not really that uncommon within the healthcare industry.

My client had engaged me to see if I would have any luck in opening the door for him, because he had met with steep resistance and was hoping that I may be able to at the very least strike up a dialogue with the right person or to determine if there was a competitive process that he needed to go through in order to be considered as a candidate to do business with the hospitals within the health system.

It seemed to me to be a fairly straightforward request. One that seemed simple enough, and when I checked into the client’s background to see if there was any history of shady dealings, he came up “squeaky-clean”, and so I chose to represent his interests.

I informed my client that there were no guarantees, but that I felt fairly confident that I could (at the very least) open a dialogue so that he could present himself and his organization. He explained to me that given his competitor’s contracting tactics, that he could save the health system’s hospitals at least 30% of their cost, and likely more.

The CEO of the health system is a man that I have a great deal of respect for, because his management style is one where he has a positive attitude, and listens intently to what everyone has to say, mainly because he believes that everyone has something relevant to contribute. It’s also how he got to where he is today.

The other reason is because we have a certain commonality as we both began on the street, he as a police officer, and I as a paramedic. So we share a lot from that regard. As a police officer, he had learned to listen to people and not ignore or disregard what was brought to his door be it by me or any of the people within the health system.

He’s the kind of person that you always knew where you stood, even if he wasn’t able to help you out.

So I contacted the health system CEO, who is always a helpful and pleasant chap, and asked him who he thought I should contact to make inquiries about the process for vendors to be considered to do business with in the category of hazardous waste disposal and he directed me to the organization’s Vice President of Construction and Facilities.  The CEO and I exchanged pleasantries, and I went on to the very next step, which of course involves contacting them in the least obtrusive way that’s possible.

I made my initial contact, without any response. So I waited a week and resent the email, this time including the CEO in the email string so as to get a response. The email was simple polite and straight forward. I explained that I had spoke to the CEO, and that he had directed me to him and I wanted to know whom they used. The answer was short, only three words, and therefore requiring a follow up email. So I inquired if there was a timeframe that the existing agreement was to either be renewed or would be going to bid, and if there was any sort of process that should be followed, or credentialing process, etc.

The answer I received was a bit odd and evasive, which is nothing fairly new, but I wanted to find out if there was any sort of existing process or review to be considered, without violating the existing agreement, the plan being to wait and approach when they were ready, and not before. The tone of his emails had changed dramatically in my opinion, and so I pointed out my objective as best I know how, and explaining to him that I merely wish to understand the process, so that I may be able to pass the info onto my client.

Well, needless to say that wasn’t what he wanted to hear and what happen next was even worse. Needless to say, I failed the client, and never charged him for my time.

The point in all of this is that we talk a lot about the changes that are both here and what are coming down the road within the healthcare industry.  Those who are not likely to shed the “good ol’ boy” mentality are doing a disservice to the patient’s that they are serving, and here’s how.

As a marketer, I’m generally the first point of contact in many situations for those I represent, much like a lobbyist. But as we all know, technology is changing at a breakneck pace. Every day, more and more companies are trying to create “barriers to entry” for many innovators who may save your health system millions of dollars, which may lead to better and less expensive care to each patient we touch, while reducing the cost of care overall.

In the book “Patients Come Second” by Paul Spiegelman and Britt Berrett, they speak of “Leading change by changing the way you lead”.  If we can’t change our own prospective, and trust our subordinate managers to make the correct decisions, or get away from the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” attitudes, then you’re setting yourself up for stagnation at best and total failure in our careers at the most, not to mention the disservice we have just afforded our patients by not finding the most efficient and inexpensive way to provide the care they need. If we close our minds to innovation and efficiency in the care we provide as professionals, then the assertions made by Spiegelman and Berrett  in their book, with regard to America having the finest healthcare in the world, will soon become inaccurate as America’s healthcare system begins to stagnate, and the fresh ideas and innovations are lost as the our national brain trusts in healthcare turn to foreign markets to help save those in need.

So, the next time you slam a door in the face of cost effectiveness or a true hard-dollar savings for your health system or hospital, remember to ask yourself the question; “What did I just cost those who depend of us for their care?”

The dollar you save in operating expense that is not directly related to patient care, may actually be plugged in elsewhere and provide a better patient experience, or better yet… save someone’s life. 

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