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Desk
Back To Business As Usual?

March 2, 2024

Ken Murawski

“if you are doing something the same way you have been doing it for ten years, the chances are you are doing it wrong”.  Charles F. Kettering

 

Is it back to business as usual?  Or has the pandemic made it harder than ever to initiate change?

 

What's changed? The ability to access decision makers is harder than ever before.

 

Why? The pressure on providers is unprecedented. Most providers are losing money, they have an unmanageable number of back orders, new companies promoting productivity improvements using AI and telemedicine are intriguing but are difficult to manage and costs can be prohibitive.

 

Understanding and implementing new technology requires education. But with clinicians leaving the workplace, traveling nurses versus full time employees strain the ability to keep current.

 

The tradition of a sales representative calling on a doctor or nurse, presenting a solution and that person championing the change through purchasing is long gone. We now have Value Analysis (VAT) committees and new technology committees with multiple subcommittees.  It is harder than ever to make an appointment with someone to present a solution. The pandemic on one hand solved the problem by reaching people through Zoom and Teams meetings, but on the other hand face to face meetings are the exception and not the rule. While this would seem to be more productive, it is much harder than ever to reach that person to gain initial interest. Voicemail is long gone, e-mail is a challenge as customers literally get hundreds of emails per day from inside and outside their organization.

 

The challenge is that potential solutions are harder than ever to propose. For years, we have heard providers promote Made in USA, Environmentally Preferred Purchasing (EPP), and supporting Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI).  While made in the USA was the rallying cry during the pandemic, companies who ran to the rescue are now trying to sell off their excess inventory at a significant loss.

 

These initiatives too have taken a back seat to the pressing problems facing healthcare systems.  Few systems are willing to pay a premium for products made in the USA. DEI has faded from the boardroom conversation as survival becomes a bigger priority.

 

Let’s consider the type of products that are being promoted? Are they high volume commodity products that can be made less expensively in other parts of the world and serviced by Prime Vendor distributors? Or are they disruptive products that can address provider never events or improve productivity? We've chosen to work with suppliers who can provide better value and improve technology over the existing status quo. These companies, more often than not, are competing against market share leaders who maintain market share not by improving their products but by relying on inertia which will continue with contract renewals  cycle after cycle.

What's the solution? Suppliers who feel they can answer the call will have to continue to be creative in reaching out to prospective customers. We will have to do a better job of identifying the biggest pain points and problems to solve for providers and finding a way to connect without being another voice mail, e-mail or text that gets deleted. We continue to attend trade shows that encourage face to face meetings as we have for decades. Establishing a relationship with people will continue to be the only way to get yourself heard. Even a “no, not now” or “never” is a better answer than “getting ghosted”. We are also using data and technology to identify potential customers before asking for those meetings. As always, doing the homework, understanding our customers pain points, and proposing a solution will eventually win out but the key will be persistence, patience, and a continuing desire to do the right thing.

 

Progressive healthcare systems that are open to listening and giving these suppliers and opportunity to tell their story will be the winners and survivors in the next decade as we see dramatic changes in consolidation at the provider level.

 

 At both the provider and supplier level, let's all reconsider that change, while sometimes difficult, is progress.

If you’re a supplier struggling to make connections at the Supply Chain and Value Analysis level contact us…we can help.

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