Information technology vendors that are interested in selling to healthcare providers in 2001 need to better grasp customer priorities and expectations. They should master the language of healthcare management and drop some of the techno-speak that peppers their sales pitches.
In fact, many of the 675 exhibitors at the recent Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society meeting in New Orleans seemed unable to grasp the befuddlement of hospital executives walking the aisles.
After years of experimentation and making IT missteps, providers are looking for broad solutions and accountability from vendors. They seek help in addressing changes mandated by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations and the government, such as patient privacy regulations. They want IT to aid them in streamlining operations, enhancing productivity and slashing operating costs. Some will insist on risk-sharing deals with the vendors that can guarantee their approach will improve workflow and save money to boot.
Healthcare budgets are stagnant, with an average of about 2.5% of operating expenses and 8% of capital spending earmarked for IT. But there are hints that healthcare IT spending will accelerate later in the year as hospital boards face the reality, and potential benefits, of complying with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.
Unfortunately, too many IT vendors remain locked in a dream world where hospital customers are willing to gamble on narrow solutions and untested software. Today's embattled hospital management team seeks dependability, reliability and the assurance of a decent return on IT spending.
Vendors that can't play by these rules face a shaky and uncertain future. Those that can meet the criteria should help healthcare customers readjust their expectations. Prudent IT investment can help reduce workplace inefficiencies, but it won't solve every flaw in the system.
Keep the sellers focused, and let the buyers beware.