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December 15, 2021  |  Lynn Schear

Navigating the healthcare purchasing journey

The changing face of healthcare in the U.S. and worldwide means more automation technology to address staffing shortages, security systems to prevent hacking, and a digital–first approach for marketers. The pandemic moved more sales decisions online for companies looking to sell healthcare institutions just about anything, from advanced medical devices to pharmaceuticals to gowns and gloves.

In 2020, healthcare institutions were forced to expand existing technology to accommodate virtual care or implement new systems. According to a recent report by Healthcare IT News, healthcare executives are wary of making other long–term technology investments in the face of financial pressures caused by the pandemic. They may not have a choice, thanks to hackers: Around 75% of healthcare facilities view themselves as unprepared for cyber–attacks.

In the meantime, "everyday" expenses like building supplies, PPE and disposable medical equipment have been affected by the global supply chain disruption currently causing backups of shipping containers at U.S. ports, turning eyes toward smaller, domestic suppliers offering more flexibility and access.

While these trends can be dizzying and difficult to keep up with, here are some insights to help you better navigate selling your products in the healthcare space.

It's a group effort

Virtually zero healthcare buying decisions are made by one person anymore. Institutions providing care utilize buying committees, with doctors, administrators, supply chain experts and other job titles all the way to CFO taking a seat at the table. There is also no standard structure for these buying committees, although research has shown that they operate through a series of stages before they start writing checks. Although doctors and other direct care providers might have less clout than they once did, they are still major influencers when it comes to purchasing.

  • Board members are included with the mission to ensure the quality of patient care alongside the organization's financial health.
  • Executives on buying committees often include chief medical officers focused on high–quality patient–centered care, chief clinical officers tasked with coordinating that level of care throughout the organization, and chief experience officers responsible for improving interactions between patients and providers.
  • Administrators responsible for day–to–day operations also oversee budgeting and financial strategy for institutions, and have considerable influence over buying. According to a benchmark Google study, 71 percent initiate purchasing decisions when replacing used or outdated technology, and 42 percent initiate purchase decisions as a result of user requests from doctors, nurses and other support staff.
  • Directors and department heads request specific purchases to meet the needs of individual departments, from advanced laboratory and imaging services to billing and housekeeping.
  • Providers including physicians, nursing staff and therapists are still a main driver over purchasing decisions, according to Ernst & Young, because they are on the front lines and know which new tools or solutions are needed to improve patient care.

What happens after a need is identified

Once a hospital or outpatient center decides that a purchase needs to be made, they start narrowing down their options. This is where effective marketing makes the difference.

  • Awareness: Decision–makers with many options begin doing cursory research in the digital space using search engines to gather initial information. Marketers who have implemented targeted SEO practices and populated their websites with original content such as blog posts and white papers will see rewards in this phase. An established social media presence may drive buyers to your site first.
  • Consideration: As potential buyers start to delve into specific comparisons, companies should make sure data is readily available in the form of product comparison guides, expert testimonials and interactive media such as podcasts or video.
  • Buying: For marketers whose companies are on the short list, it's important to keep in mind that buyers will be looking for reassurance in the form of transparency, documentation, reviews and even the availability of your sales team to craft demonstrations or custom offers.

Think digital, with video first

Gone are the days of gatekeeping receptionists and swanky lunches with sales reps. The coronavirus pandemic decimated the in–person sales model, and buyers are doing their research on their phones. That doesn't mean that engaging product demonstrations have to be a thing of the past, however.

Google's study reported that 100% of its respondents were watching online videos to see product demonstrations, with eight in 10 returning to a specific product's site after watching a video. More than 60% contacted vendors directly after video viewing, and 42% requested a proposal.

"I would rather watch a demo online to decide if I even want to get in front of a salesperson," said one healthcare technology buyer.

Next–generation considerations

As healthcare follows other industries in attempting to create more socially responsible business models, they're looking for suppliers who can help them achieve their goals across a range of factors, including environmental sustainability, supporting women– and minority–owned businesses, and supporting domestic suppliers offering greater resilience amid supply–chain disruption. For products that offer an edge over competitors when it comes to equity or the environment, that messaging can be a real differentiator for brands.

Healthcare marketing, like healthcare itself, must constantly react to changing care models and financial stressors. Healthcare continues to be a field with high turnover, with new jobs and job titles created every day to respond to funding opportunities, regulation and public health crises. Updated, verified data for the right personnel within institutions is more important than ever.

Ready to explore expanded healthcare data offerings from MCH?  Learn more about our insights into hospitals, outpatient centers, residential care and more.

More Insight From MCH

  • Find out why data hygiene is crucial in reaching the right inboxes.
  • Learn how to market to healthcare decision–makers and physicians.



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