Believe me, I get it. People who work in lab-related IT Departments just want to do their job uninterrupted, and the sales people who work with them are always pushing for new products, services, and anything else that will provide them the upper hand to keep up in this extremely competitive healthcare services industry. While this seems like the making of an adversarial relationship, it doesn’t have to be. And when it isn’t, it’s a valuable partnership with both sides gaining insight, learning from each other, and ultimately making the task at hand and profit margins better for everyone in the company.
Before my current position at U.S. HealthTek, I was in sales and operations for several medical laboratory companies. As someone passionate about bringing in new, profitable business and keeping ahead of the competition, I was determined to raise the bar for the IT department by always requesting new services or products. Because of this, whenever I walked into our IT department, I saw shoulders slump, eyes dart away, and body language that pretty much reflected a polite “not you again” message. Yet it’s a symbiotic relationship, and when it’s healthy it is an extremely positive one. Labs are like sharks: if they stop moving forward, they die. And for those of us who are working to create new solutions, new opportunities to enhance revenue, and new tools that meet the always-increasing demands from patients and doctors, we need the exchange of ideas that comes from conversations between sales, service and IT.
When I was in this challenging sales position, too often when I approached one of our IT professionals with new ideas or products, the Pavlovian reaction was “no.” Like a typical sales person who does not take no for an answer, I would take my request to our sales manager, who pushed things up to the VP, etc., making it a convoluted process. What was really needed was a mutually-respected exchange with the IT department. Too often, though, I saw the people in those roles as being islands unto themselves. This was partially because of the nature of the work, but sometimes a backward-thinking CIO actually prohibited sales people from even speaking to those of us representing new ideas.
The progressive CIO wants to listen to new solutions and develop resources. I remember one CIO in particular that worked for the same company I did who actually welcomed what the sales people serving our clients had to say. Rather than an immediate “No”, his response would be “Let me get some people together and take a look at this.” Now, to be clear, the answer is still often no, usually due to timing and/or current budget constraints but at least there’s been communication. That alone makes a huge difference for both parties, because both walk away with new mindsets and perspectives that inevitably pay off down the road.
Why Communication Is More Important Than Ever
With the consistent political discussions surrounding the cost of healthcare in the United States, the focus on inter-operability and the seamless sharing of information continues to be a very important objective relative to overall cost containment. Eliminating duplication of services and using technology to seamlessly transmit information to all those medical professionals who need it, are mission-critical. Laboratories are not just testing facilities but information providers. To be more competitive, you have to offer more services related to providing that information. As we all struggle to identify and provide the best options for the sharing of information between healthcare providers, it will only be accomplished to the healthcare provider’s satisfaction when sales and service people who are in the field share what they are hearing with a receptive IT department. We should never forget that we (IT) are a service organization, with internal clients and external clients. Both need to be treated with the same importance. It is a different mentality, but as inter-operability becomes more prevalent, it is more crucial.
Working together effectively involves open lines of communication that go both ways. It’s the only way that the industry as a whole can move forward. Oh, and remember that CIO I thought was particularly smart about all this? I married him, and we founded U.S. HealthTek together with the goal of embracing that same spirit of communication and great service. See? With open lines of communications, all kinds of good things can happen!