I’ve spent a lot of time recently looking at how hospitals typically evaluate online solutions partners when I bumped into a blog post from Brett Trout, a lawyer pal of mine who is pondering the same question for his industry.
The question addresses the different types of business relationships we might have when purchasing products or services. For some purchases, the seller is a peddler — it’s a feature purchase and is driven by convenience elements like location of the vendor or basic features. The street-cart lunch vendor downtown falls in this bucket. I may seek him out because he makes a mean grilled cheese, but I don’t value him as an expert in nutrition or any sort of incredible service offering. We don’t have a relationship and he doesn’t need to know my name for me to get full value from him.
Often, our solutions are evaluated the same way – based strictly on product features.
While that’s ok (we have incredible software), selecting a vendor this way falls short. Products fail because it’s possible to put out terrible solutions using perfectly good technology.
For our clients to realize full value from their eHealth vendors, they must view the purchase as a relationship, rather than merely a transaction. While we offer great software, we also work to understand our clients – their goals, their competitive situation, their in-house capabilities – and then we invest time in making sure that they’re successfully solving problems and achieving objectives. At one time I thought all vendors work this way, but it’s not uncommon for us to find hospitals that haven’t had a conversation with their vendors for years (and not for lack of need).
It’s time to change the parameters of that discussion. Unless you maintain a large pool of dedicated Web staff, then you’re buying more than just a tool when you go down this road. Process, expertise, and the ability to support your site become just as important as the tools put into play. If you evaluate what’s out in the market, keep in mind that you’ll need a process that looks holistically at solutions and not just product features. You need more than grilled cheese.