Temperature Check: Health Care IT Market Feverish for Partners

By Kelly Teal Comments
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Video. Often called "telehealth," video in the health care vertical has grown more common with the ubiquity of high-speed Internet and its ease of use on mobile devices. Now, thanks to the underlying networks and associated hardware and software, the global telehealth market will increase from $9.8 billion in 2010 to $27.3 billion in 2016, according to March 2012 findings from BCC Research. And health care providers are finding ever more uses for video. For instance, a number of hospitals now record rounds with doctors, then encode those streams and release them for viewing by authorized health care professionals, said Joe Arena, vice president of advanced services for managed services provider Yorktel. But the greatest interest is coming from health care organizations eager to tie their smartphones and tablets — along with disparate video services, including proprietary and consumer brands — into room-based systems. This video federation is allowing health care facilities, which have notoriously small IT budgets, to make the most of their existing investments.

Tips for Selling Into Health Care

Don't kid yourself — selling health care IT "is not as easy as selling T1s," as Chad Chamides, vice president of sales for telecom agency Titanium Communications, put it. For one thing, you have to know which hardware and software suppliers, and data centers, comply with HIPAA regulations. For another, you have to know how to integrate all of those pieces, or have trusted partners available who will handle that for you. Either way, the payoffs promise to be huge. "Health care professionals do not want to work with carriers directly, so they are leaning on the agents," Chamides said. With that in mind, here is the nitty-gritty to understand before charging into a doctor's office on a cold call:

Challenge: Getting in the door. "A lot of medical facilities don't feel comfortable working with people who just walk in," Chamides said. "They only like to deal with partners who are referred — and the doctors all know each other."
Solution: Take advantage of local networking events to forge relationships with business leaders and health care decision makers, and make the most of your existing connections wherever you sell.

Challenge: Enduring a long sales cycle. Don't expect to get a signature on a health care IT deal for at least six months. Doctors and hospitals are slow to adopt new technologies, even though they need to do so, and they struggle with limited IT budgets.
Solution: "You need to have other prospects, clients and business coming in," said Chamides.

Challenge: Having the proper processes in place to understand the customer's business needs. "If I go through my questions and don't ask the right ones, I'm going to screw it up," Miley said.
Solution: Have a spreadsheet with items to check off as you investigate a customer's infrastructure and systems. For example, get the client to walk you through a typical business day. Where is the server room? Are the servers caught in a rat's nest of wires? Are they being cooled properly? Are all drives being backed up? Only after running through your entire checklist will you be able to provide a thorough recommendation. "If you understand the customer and what they do on a daily basis, then you should see the red flags," said Miley.

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