What happens when you take an experienced digital health buyer and an experienced digital health seller and have an honest conversation about the process of bringing new innovations into a health system? You get lots of not-so-obvious, but tremendously valuable insight into how to cross the moats successful health systems have been forced to build to keep you out.

Co-host Shahid Shah recently published a post with Brian Van Winkle on The Healthcare Blog titled: Perspectives on Working with Healthcare Systems for Digital Start Up Companies | Part 1. Shahid, an experienced digital health innovator played the role of the seller. Brian Van Winkle, an expert on bringing new technology into hospitals, played the buyer. On this episode, Shahid and I discuss the key points from that interaction and tie them back to the principles we’re always talking about on The #HCBiz Show!

We explore topics including:

  • How health systems make decisions
  • How health systems contract
  • What it means when they say health systems are consensus-driven and permission-based
  • Why it’s critical to understand the budget process and procurement cycle
  • How to determine who should be involved in the process and who has the necessary authority
  • How volunteering can be a creative way to get on the inside
  • Using BANT to guide you (Budget. Authority. Need. Timing.)
  • How to balance the need to build a pipeline with the notoriously long sales cycles and the need to make sales now
  • Using OKRs, or Objectives and Key Results to prove your value.
  • Why there are 0 examples of software-only companies succeeding in healthcare. You’re a tech-enabled services company whether you like it or not.
  • Getting to No! It can be the best thing for you and your prospect and it’s valuable to get there quickly.
  • Looking at annual reports and SEC filings to find out what hospitals want to buy. (Jeff Byers talked about this on Episode 62 too)
  • Why and how to get on the RFP invitation lists.
  • And then why you probably shouldn’t reply to that RFP anyways!
  • The magic of “Always Be Valuable (ABV)”
  • Rule: If you don’t know your value then free is fine. If you know your value then free is a waste of time. Volunteering is for learning. Not selling.
  • Corollary: Even if they give you $0, it’s still not free for them. They are spending staff time and opportunity time on you.
  • Rule: If you’re asking them to do something for you before you’ve done something for them… stop!
  • There’s always a value exchange. There are other things you can ask them for besides money (i.e. Present at an event together. A shared study. A press release. Etc.)

Selling into health systems is complicated, but it is possible to differentiate yourself from the flurry of innovators that are competing for their attention. With the proper perspective and a sound strategy, digital health startups can address the health systems unique needs and constraints to close deals. This conversation (along with the technical guidance in Part 2 coming soon) will provide you with tools to get it done.

Check it out and let us know what’s worked for you by hitting us up on twitter: @The_HCBiz


Links and Resources

NODE.Health (Network of Digital Evidence in Health) is the home for evidence based digital medicine that brings together a network of societies, organizations and innovators dedicated to digital transformation in health. NODE.Health builds and explores the knowledge base now required to lead global healthcare systems and industry into the value based era.

The Health Care Blog – Everything you always wanted to know about the Health Care system. But were afraid to ask.

Perspectives on Working with Healthcare Systems for Digital Start Up Companies | Part 1 – This is the article today’s episode was based on.

Let’s Get Real or Let’s Not Play: Transforming the Buyer/Seller Relationship
A tremendous book that’ll take you deeper on many of the concepts we discussed today.


This episode is brought to you by Patchwise Labs. They’re a creative strategy firm focused on social innovations in health.

If you’re interested in the social determinants of health (SDOH), then you absolutely need to sign up for their newsletter, the Dispatch. It’s a weekly roundup and analysis that separates the signal from the noise in key topics across policy, business, and technology. Everything you need to know related to SDOH, in your inbox each week. I’ve been recommending the Dispatch to my clients and friends for months. They all love it and you will too.

And while you’re there… Listeners of The #HCBiz Show! can also use the code ‘HCBiz’ for a massive discount on Patchwise Labs’ 2018 Buyer’s Guide: Social Innovation Technology for Healthcare.


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Music by StudioEtar