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5. Think Like A Physician, Win The Deal
Most channel observers at HIMSS agreed that there's still a disconnect between what physicians want and what solution providers think they want.
"A physician wants to have all of these capabilities, from voice to patient data, flowing to a highly secure device," said Fraser Edward, manager of market development for health care at BlackBerry maker Research In Motion (RIM). "He doesn't want a Batman Belt of different solutions anymore. Therefore, BlackBerry is now a cool story. We have to follow the path of physician wants."
The important thing for vendors, Edward said, is to provide that vision for VARs to help them get at physicians' needs faster and more effectively. RIM was once a heavily direct-sales oriented company, he explained, but in vertical markets like health care, the "local touch" a solution provider can offer has increased the level of business opportunity for everyone involved.
That opportunity dissolves, however, when either VAR or vendor approaches the health-care customer as technologist instead of problem solver.
"This is not a crowd where you can brag about this and that technology," said Ram Appalaraju, senior vice president of marketing for Meru Networks. "They appreciate consistency and they appreciate getting what they paid for."
Solution providers that have been especially successful in health care are already following that path of "physician wants."
To Frank Kobuszewski, vice president of technology solutions with solution provider CXtec, the new health care landscape means VARs should look not just to the emerging technology needs of health-care organizations, but how their specialties -- especially in services -- can relate to those needs.
One of CXtec's major concerns, for example, is asset recovery and disposal, and more specifically, helping health-care organizations deal with "e-waste," or broken, obsolete or otherwise discarded electronics equipment. If health-care facilities, especially hospitals, are to make the transition to interoperable electronic health records and embrace their digital future, a lot of ancient systems are going to require proper disposal.
"As of right now, there's no national standard around e-waste," Kobuszewski explained, citing the e-Stewards Initiative and R2 (Responsible Recycling) among the programs and proposed standards making the rounds. "But the recycling business here is big. You probably saw the '60 Minutes' interview on people who say they do the right thing when recycling this stuff, and then their assets are tracked right to landfills in China. That's a big problem."
Even the massive systems integrators with traditionally vast health-care practices see advancing opportunity for partnerships with smaller VARs willing to adjust their roles.
"They have a play, certainly," said Amy King, vice president of health information technology programs at Northrop Grumman, of the smaller solution providers Northrop Grumman has worked with in the past. "The challenge is that it's always different based on the customer. Some have grown in terms of what they're offering, some still have to find their niche."
The basic reseller game in health care, she said, is over.
"If you're just offering commodities," King explained, "you're not going to be all that valuable."
For more on the changing health care channel, check out the following: