Successful equipment sales calls for a broader look at the customer’s wants and needs.
A medical equipment sale used to be just about selling a table or light, says Kurt Forsthoefel, director, medical marketing, Midmark. “But, in today’s marketplace, the sale is about helping the customer determine the right equipment and technology, as well as helping them identify the workflow that provides the best experience for both the medical staff and the patient.”
Says Garrison Gomez, senior director of vital signs and cardiopulmonary devices, Welch Allyn, “Accuracy and durability are expected, but they’re no longer all that’s expected. It’s now a standard requirement for devices to be EMR-connected, in a secure fashion. To help improve today’s workflows and satisfy IT requirements, analog devices don’t make the cut. Customers demand secure, digital devices.”
“Today’s healthcare providers need not only improved efficiency and throughput, but a holistic exam room solution that facilitates evidence-based care,” says Forsthoefel. A case in point is Midmark Clinical Solutions, a web-based workflow tool that helps customers determine the right space and the right equipment for their needs, he says.
“Especially as the industry shifts toward value-based care, it’s important to create a point-of-care ecosystem in the exam space, which supports compliance efforts and focuses on patient satisfaction,” he says.
“Today’s equipment and technology solutions must also marry longstanding value traits like accuracy and durability with the need for better outcomes.” Equipment such as the Midmark IQvitals Zone helps to standardize vitals acquisition by removing variability associated with manual measurements and reduces data entry errors by directly porting data to an electronic medical record, says Forsthoefel. “This not only improves the quality of care and accuracy of the measurements, but it also reduces errors. This makes the care provided more efficient (no medical assistant time is required to enter the data) and more accurate (fewer errors) to help support better outcomes.”
The point-of-care ecosystem goes beyond the direct interaction between patient and caregiver to include everything that happens within the practice or clinic as well as experiences that occur outside this environment, says Forsthoefel. “When viewed through this broad lens, it is easier to understand just how important interoperability – the ability of networks, devices and equipment to work together – is. Within the point-of-care ecosystem, there is a lot of equipment and software that need to ‘talk’ to each other to help deliver quality care.
“Unfortunately, for most healthcare organizations, the point-of-care ecosystem is comprised of disconnected processes, devices and components, making it tough to achieve the level of interoperability mentioned above,” he adds. “Additionally, the isolated processes and disconnected data flows can create inefficiencies, communication breakdowns and human errors.
“We see healthcare organizations looking for solutions that introduce new levels of connectivity and interoperability, which integrate processes, equipment and caregivers at the point of care to ensure a more satisfying and seamless care experience. They need equipment that can not only communicate directly to an EMR to avoid errors, but also EMRs that can share information between providers and networks with ease.”
Says Gomez, “Interoperability can refer to connecting data between two devices, but connecting to the EMR is the most common scenario. EMR connectivity is not negotiable anymore. It’s a requirement and a necessity. No practice should invest in a device today that cannot connect to their EMR. Even if they don’t connect it today, they will almost definitely want to connect before the end of the device’s life cycle. The investments they make today should support that reality.”
Creating that “connected” environment isn’t always easy.
“In ambulatory care, there is not yet an established standard for connectivity like there is in acute care with HL7,” says Gomez. “Furthermore, the ambulatory care workflow isn’t barcode-driven with wristbands, as it is in acute care. This can make patient-to-device association more challenging. It’s why we work directly with more than 50 EMR partners to establish direct integrations and make it easy for end-users.”
Says Forsthoefel, “As you better understand the point-of-care ecosystem and view it through the lens of a complex integrated system, you quickly realize just how disconnected much of the processes and equipment are. This disconnection creates barriers that can lead to inefficiencies, communication breakdowns and human error throughout the continuum of care. This can have a significant impact on the diagnosis and treatment of a patient.
“Standardization and consolidation of practices are also certainly challenges. Everyone may have a slightly different way of completing certain tasks, and the directive from an organizational level is usually to identify a common workflow or process. They need equipment that helps make standardization possible.”
“Whenever you develop a new technology for the ambulatory environment it’s also important for the manufacturer to consider how it fits into existing workflows and processes, or identify if a new process has to be created for the technology to be effectively used to its full potential,” he says.
“For instance, it’s one thing to introduce wireless auto-connecting to bring important data to the point of care. It’s another thing entirely to ensure that physician interaction and discussion with patients is not negatively impacted by the placement of the laptop or tablet.”
The changing decision-maker
The consolidation of health systems and physician practices has changed equipment decision-making.
“It’s no longer one person – traditionally the physician or office manager – making the decision,” says Kurt Forsthoefel, director, medical marketing, Midmark. “There are now committees with decision-making processes. Each person on the committee has specific benefits, challenges, features and issues they are weighing to make a decision.
“Often, these decisions are no longer concerning a few pieces of equipment or furniture for one location,” he says. “It’s now many pieces of equipment for an entire network looking to standardize.
“The manufacturers and distributors who understand these changes and continue to evolve with the industry are the ones that will be successful in this new environment. While we must listen to our customers, it’s also an opportunity to help educate them on how certain technology or equipment will positively impact their point-of-care ecosystem and allow them to provide quality care and impact clinical outcomes. This is especially important as the market shifts to value-based reimbursement models.”
Garrison Gomez, senior director of vital signs and cardiopulmonary devices, Welch Allyn, says, “In many cases, the hospital supply chain is now involved in the purchase of equipment for ambulatory care offices. As a result, many hospitals now use GPO contracts to source equipment. Today, these two groups – hospital supply chain and GPOs – have much more prominent seats at the table than before.
“Welch Allyn continues to focus on helping our distribution partners succeed in the changing healthcare landscape. We organize our teams to provide expertise in ambulatory and acute care settings, and those teams collaborate every day to provide the best possible customer experience across the continuum of care.
Says Forsthoefel, now more than ever, manufacturers and distributors need to maintain an ongoing dialogue. “It’s important that both parties understand the customers’ challenges and the types of technology they need to provide quality care.
“At Midmark, our sales and marketing teams work closely with our partners to be able to adapt to changing customer needs, and it’s absolutely vital to stay in close connection.”