Integrated Health Systems came into being for very good reasons–not the least of which was the rationalization of services and reducing overall costs of delivery.

As these systems mature and become more integrated, the types of relationships that they desire from industry has also matured.

Agreements based on risk sharing or gain sharing would have been unimaginable not that long ago and now, many health systems have reached these agreements with brand name medical device and pharma companies.

Our research at HSP clearly indicates a desire for a different type and quality of partnering with a particular focus of the health system on system sustainability—the ability of the health system to look years into the future and know what their technology needs will be, what will be provided by industry and even the potential associated acquisition and operating costs.

Why is this their focus?

As reimbursement changes and as the payment models evolve, many of these organizations recognize that reducing the acquisition costs of technology will not be enough to sustain them long term (One CFO we interviewed shared that they anticipated a 50M shortfall within 10 years).

Many health systems are looking to industry for help in addressing this very big concern, they are seeking creative solutions outside of the normal transaction-based relationship.

What has become clear is that technology providers need to have a dedicated team of resources to have this high-level strategic conversation. Many of our clients are implementing strategic account managers to begin the dialogue with health systems.

In addition to developing and planning for the long-term relationship, the strategic account managers need to find ways to assist field sales and the organization in advancing their opportunities. Successful companies realize that in a “value analysis” world, it is essential to connect beyond the clinical value proposition and demonstrate the strategic value for the health system.

For many years in healthcare, the focus has been on the final approver—or Economic Buying Influence for our Miller Heiman clients. Although there remains one “budget holder” with final approval to allocate funds, the health system buying process is not a simple linear path ending in a dialogue with the final approver and BAM-sale. It is our belief that there are several processes at play in the health system buying process. At the end of the day, a successful vendor will have demonstrated how their solution has positive clinical outcomes, financial outcomes (could be cost savings), operations improvements and helps the health system move closer to the realization of a strategic initiative.

As health systems grow and mature, the need for well-trained strategic account managers coordinating the health system relationship has never been clearer.