Second annual Healthcare IT Marketing Conference (HITMC)

John Lynn, prolific blogger and health IT media magnate, and I are teaming up again for the second year to produce and deliver a marketing conference focused on helping digital health, health IT, and medical device innovators. We’re going to be providing actionable advice and specific techniques you can use to cut through the noise when trying to market healthcare and medical tech products to physicians, hospitals, health systems, ACOs, patients, and similar customers. Called The Healthcare IT Marketing Conference, last year’s event covered very important subjects by some of the world’s best experts on those topics and we’ll continue the tradition again in 2015.

Learn the difference between Marketing, Advertising, PR, and Branding

Everyone tells small companies that they need to “do marketing” but that’s really hard to do so I started with a quick visual to explain what it means. It comes from Marty Neumeier on pages 24 and 25 of ZAG by way of the Brand Autopsy Blog (which I highly recommend reading) and illustrates the differences between Marketing, Advertising, PR, and Branding. It’s a wonderful visual and clearly shows that small companies should focus on marketing and free PR, shoot for branding and probably eschew advertising until they have enough money. Our expert speakers at HITMC know the difference and will teach you how to make sure you’re not taking the wrong steps.

Learn how to conduct appropriate market research

Lots of (even innovative) companies don’t do basic market research so we will cover:

  • Find the right search terms for your industry or product. Don’t be esoteric. Because most products will only be found through word of mouth or on the Internet, don’t choose terms to describe yourself that no one else understands. Selling to hospitals is not about creativity, it’s about value. If the customer doesn’t understand what you’re selling give up now.
  • Use competitive intelligence to locate your competitors and existing firms.

Learn about the different kinds of of Business Models to consider

  • Software as a Service (SaaS) and subscription model — best model for startups with something they can maintain in their own data centers
  • Consulting and Solutions model — when you can provide packaged help
  • Licensed model — when privacy or complexity requires solutions to be installed in house
  • Freemium model (and open source)

Learn about major healthcare industry fallacies

Selling to the healthcare community is very hard and there are many myths that our conference will dispel:

  • Healthcare folks are neither technically challenged nor simple techno-phobes. Because they are in the business of saving lives and improving health, they care about technologies that help them achieve their mission.
  • Most product decisions are no longer made by clinical folks alone, CIOs are fully involved. Don’t try to sell just to the clinical folks — make sure the IT side is engaged and on your side.
  • Complex, full-featured, products are not easier to sell than simple, stand alone tools that have the capability of interoperating with other solutions are much easier to sell. Software as a service is a good approach.
  • Hospitals will not buy unless one proves value. This seems obvious but many companies think that because they think something is important, their customers will just agree.
  • Selling into doctors offices is not easy. There were a few startups looking to sell to individual physicians’ offices. Selling to to your first dozen physicians is pretty easy since we all know doctors. Just be careful, though, since selling to the next dozen and beyond is where companies fall.

Learn how to align the Payers, Beneficiaries, and Users (PBU) of your Health IT or MedTech product

There are three distinct groups you’re marketing and selling your products to:

  • The payer or the person/entity that writes the check for your product.
  • The person or group that benefits most from the use of the product.
  • The person or group that actually uses the product.

I call this the “PBU alignment” problem. In a complex environment like healthcare, the three groups are often not the same — if you can find a market in which the payers, the beneficiaries, and the users are all the same then your sales job is easy. However, that’s commonly not the case. Let’s take a look at the typical example of a complex product like an electronic medical records (EMR) software package in the era of ARRA, HITECH, and meaningful use (MU). The “payer” may ultimately be government reimbursements through Medicare, the “beneficiaries” are the healthcare insurance firms and the government agencies that need the MU data, and the “users” are the doctors and staff at physicians offices and hospitals. Why has it taken decades for EMRs to be sold to just a tiny fraction of the total industry? Because the PBU alignment hasn’t been reached — until the users, beneficiaries, and payers of the products all understand the value and are willing to work together to achieve a goal it will be tough.

Join us at the conference to talk with experts on the PBU lesson and advice for your product. Figure out the PBU alignment problem and see how you’ll sell to each of the groups and make the right arguments — you do it right and you’ll make money. If you forget the complexities of the PBU and you’ll be languishing, too.

Go home with many tips and tricks:

  • Make sure your company and its value is easy to explain
  • Make sure your value is defendable and differentiated (but without being esoteric)
  • Make sure that you have ability to attract partners and can either create or be part of an ecosystem
  • Ensure that you have word of mouth opportunity
  • Have scaleable staff and systems
  • Have a scaleable product — build once, sell many times
  • Have an uncomplicated pricing and deployment model
  • Be very focused — you can’t “solve healthcare” but you can solve very specific problems
  • Try to own the relationship with and information about customers — don’t rely on partners that won’t give you access to customers


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7 thoughts on “Second annual Healthcare IT Marketing Conference (HITMC)

  1. Kamal Govindaswamy


    Great post.

    As a healthcare security and privacy professional, my hope is two-fold.

    One, that the HIT vendors bolt in security from the ground up and adopt the privacy-by-design principles. Here are a couple of related references.

    Second, that the HIT vendors focus on interoperability in designing security and privacy into their solutions and that they proactively collaborate with the leading security vendors to make that possible. I would ask the security vendors to proactively reach out and work with the HIT vendors as well. Identity and Access Management in particular is a space that needs particular focus. And of course, all this needs to happen without negatively impacting user experience both for clinicians and consumers.

  2. Great article. I think what we tend to overlook is the long term benefits of being a “meaningful user”. All of this is done to collect data, which will prove valuable in years to come.

  3. Amazing! First you are saying that once all of these old, stupid docs who can’t understand technology die off — the 20 years empty promises from the EHR tech industry will come to fruition. Look, if you don’t know better than that, you are being willfully ignorant of the following:
    1) Those “old” doctors that you keep talking about have been using cutting edge technology and computers for 25 years. They have been using it in the OR, the ER and in their offices,and at a much higher level than most other mortals.

    2) The fact that docs hate EHR is not because they are afraid or ignorant of technology. It is because the product that’s been shoved down their throats is garbage. It is an open secret that the EHR vendors have delivered an expensive and faulty product that almost no one likes, but it doesn’t matter because its subsidized by the federal govt.

    The next thing that I find astonishing is that what you seem to be saying here — is that,thanks its spectacular failure — the EHR industry has handed itself another great opportunity. What is that opportunity? To replace all of the old useless junk that doesn’t work with more useless junk that doesn’t work (with a few minimal improvements). Yes, we the American people must be stupid, stupid, stupid.

  4. Wish I saw this blog when it was originally posted, but still feel inclined to contribute to the conversation. I work across New York City and focus specifically on health IT and Meaningful Use. I am surprised by a few sections of this article. In the first part “Adoption, attestation, and a younger generation of physicians” a conclusion is drawn after a few statistics that less medical professionals are attesting to MU than are adopting EHRs. Is the reader meant to assume that of those who purchased an EHR, all of them were eligible for the incentive program? That is unlikely. For physicians who do see Medicare patients, sometimes the incentive is so low (the payout is proportional to the percentage of Medicare patients you see). That does not mean that those individuals cannot attest to MU, the draw just may not be there. To attest for Medicaid, you must see 30% of your entire patient encounters must be Medicaid encounters, 20% if you are a pediatrician (though the payout is lower). Is it safe to assume that all of those who adopted fell into these two criteria?

    I also am not sure if MU Stage 2 was intentionally not discussed in this article because people have grown tired of discussing it, but it seems to be a major omission to the MU discussion and for HIT entrepreneurs. The failure of EHRs to successfully electronically transmit data to different systems on a consistent basis (i.e. an eCW provider sending patient info. to a MedGen provider) is a huge area of opportunity.

    The author noted provider dissatisfaction with their EHR systems. EHR transitions may also have been intentionally glossed over in this article, I am not sure, but this is another, to me, very obvious area for tech innovators to focus on. EHR transition is cost prohibitive for many of those very physicians mentioned in the article. To be eligible for MU often times can suggest a need to receive payment for the steep investment into an EHR. Some of these practices are in low-income communities that cannot afford to pay the high price to transition. What about making that cheaper, more efficient, easier, faster, etc? While they may exist, I am not aware of efficient, high-quality products available that do it for a reasonable cost. If they are available I would love to know what they are so that I can share the information with disgruntled medical providers.

    I do agree with the author that discussions/collaborative efforts would be highly conducive to new tech discoveries in the healthcare industry. It should not be a novel concept, but apparently it is. Talking with providers about why they are dissatisfied can go a long way in improving customer satisfaction and improving the overall quality of the tech products currently in the industry.

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