I’ve been immersed in the world of healthcare information technology (HIT) for the past few years, and I’m amazed at the sheer volume of information about HIT tools and their value coming from every direction, due in large part to HIT provisions in the ARRA. From healthcare trade publications to consumer media to technology-focused television advertising, it’s clear HIT’s heyday is here.

More hospitals, health systems and physician practices than ever are giving serious consideration to HIT investment, but the myriad volume of news and commentary about what to think about, when to think about it and what tools to leverage can leave the average CIO, practice manager and physician scratching their heads.

So how can those who market HIT stand out from the countless offerings on the market and become more than just another voice in a crowded room?  The answer is deceptively simple, no matter what’s being said in Washington: When doctors talk to doctors, HIT marketers should be there – and should do far more listening than talking.  It may surprise you to learn the process begins and ends with listening.

In my work representing an electronic medical records (EMR) software provider, I have heard and absorbed doctors’ concerns about using EMR technology. EMR had to be intuitive and require little to no staff training. It had to offer local service and support, since doctors who can’t access data can’t practice. Most importantly, it had to be an enabler to better patient care rather than a detractor from it by conforming to the way doctors practice medicine.

With these requirements, my job was clear: Spend time listening to doctors talk about how EMR should bring value to their practices, and then talk about how my client’s product met and exceeded those value expectations, with firsthand feedback from the doctors themselves. An aggressive healthcare trade campaign, several product demos and a battery of case studies later, we showed we cared about what doctors need, adding value to their operations, adding value to my client’s brand and growing the sales pipeline.

The HIT marketer’s world is fraught with a variety of pressures, and it’s incredibly easy for even the most experienced among us to focus on the tactical rather than the strategic.  In reality, the prescription for success is simple:

  • LISTEN. What do my end-users really want?

  • RESPOND. Does my product address those needs? Does it require improvement?

  • COMMUNICATE. How can I demonstrate my product addresses my end-users’ needs?

  • SELL. Let doctors “try before they buy.”

  • LISTEN AGAIN. Has my product hit the mark? What have I done well? What do I need to improve?

— Brian Barthelmes

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