by Julie Mann, Chief Commercial Officer, Holon Solutions
September 24, 2019 – The healthcare information technology (HIT) market is expected to grow from more than $187 billion this year to more than $390 billion by 2024. Much of this growth is driven by healthcare providers, health plans and policymakers collectively concluding that the fragmented, inefficient ways the industry manages data continue to be one of the major reasons for its climbing costs, declining outcomes and growing administrative burden for stakeholders.
To compete in the crowded HIT market, vendors must continually improve their solutions with new, innovative features and capabilities that help their clients eliminate inefficiencies and improve the productivity of their users. Developing and integrating a new capability into a core product offering, however, is time-consuming. Internal development also requires a significant financial investment in highly skilled software engineers who must design, test and launch the new feature, in addition to the routine maintenance and upgrades to a company’s existing solution.
Instead, HIT companies can partner with other HIT vendors to add a capability that would otherwise consume a lot of time and money to develop on their own. Partnering with an existing vendor with a proven solution avoids numerous internal software development challenges, including:
- Development time. Launching a new software capability may take a few months. However, there are many variables that can extend that development to a year or more, such as the complexity and size of the project and available engineering resources. Meanwhile, a McKinsey study found that 33% of software projects do not meet their scheduled deadline, which can delay the solution’s market introduction. Even in the slower-moving healthcare industry, a year or more is too long to wait to offer a valuable new capability to improve the quality and value of a solution.
- Development costs. The same McKinsey study also found that 66% of software projects experienced cost overruns, but that is only part of the costs a company faces when developing its own feature. The average software developer salary in the U.S. is $105,590 a year, or $50.77 an hour. These highly skilled and well-compensated workers, while developing a new capability, are also responsible for routine maintenance and upgrades to an existing solution. Even with the longer hours these professionals typically work, they can only accomplish so much in a day. That means if the company wants to speed the new feature to the market, it needs to hire additional staff or an outside software development firm, both of which can be highly costly.
- Healthcare complexity. For the latter, finding a third-party software development firm that understands healthcare is challenging and risky. As the industry discovered during the electronic health record (EHR) implementation spree in the early 2000s, many software developers lacked knowledge of healthcare delivery workflows and provider preferences. This inexperience and lack of expertise resulted in frustrated providers, escalated hospital and health system costs and numerous EHR developers leaving the market. Healthcare IT companies cannot afford outsourcing development if it means offering an awkward, inferior feature that detracts from the overall quality of its core solution.
A HIT vendor partner offers speed and efficiency
The above reasons demonstrate why the more effective strategy for releasing a new capability for a core solution is to partner. Another HIT company that has already developed such a feature that can be easily integrated and delivered to clients offers the following benefits:
- Speed time to market. By choosing a partner with a highly scalable, vendor-agnostic solution, the company can much more quickly deliver the new capability to its clients, which improves their satisfaction and demonstrates a continued emphasis on value and quality. A shorter time to market also offers an advantage over competitors who likely are also exploring new capabilities to improve their solution.
- Reduced time and financial investment. Partnering with another HIT vendor can significantly reduce the financial investment compared to developing the solution internally. Freed from the development project, a company’s internal software engineers can concentrate their valuable skills and experience on improving the core solution. Likewise, the vendor-partner’s engineers will work to improve the quality of their solution, which is a win-win for the partnership.
- Healthcare expertise. A solution already in use by healthcare providers or health plans demonstrates that the partner understands the unique healthcare and/or provider workflows and business model. It also eliminates any risk that the vendor-partner’s solution does not meet quality expectations. During due diligence, the company can test and verify that the partner’s software integrates with its core product and the partner’s existing clients are satisfied with the solution.
Seek a proven partner
Perhaps the most challenging and time-consuming aspect of partnering with another HIT vendor is finding the right fit, both from a technology and a cultural standpoint. In this regard, the technology that the potential partner offers should deliver a capability that would be highly time-consuming for a company to develop internally and very difficult for a competitor to copy. Holding one or more patents for the technology, for example, is an excellent indicator that the potential vendor partner has invested the required time and resources to develop a truly unique solution that delivers value to clients on its own and would certainly elevate the value of an existing core solution. A consistent track record of improving the solution is also an excellent indicator of a potentially good partner.
Culturally, transparency and flexibility are crucial to the partnership. Companies should be highly cautious of a potential partner that is not forthcoming about how their solution works and how it will seamlessly integrate with the core solution. Trust is essential.
Combined, partnering with a proven HIT vendor to improve an existing solution can be a cost-effective and efficient way to differentiate a company and its solution in an increasingly competitive market. Working together, both vendors will benefit from each company’s growth as they continue to improve their solutions to sustain customer engagement and expand each other’s market share for years to come.
About the author:
Julie has spent more than 15 years focused in healthcare information technology, working to deliver innovative solutions that help make the health system work better for all. She has held services and sales roles at organizations from startups to Fortune 500 firms, and from providers to technology companies, equipping her with a unique perspective into clients’ challenges, and enabling her to formulate solutions to meet their needs. Julie leads commercial operations for Holon. Prior to joining Holon, Mann was vice president of regional sales at Optum, where she was responsible for the growth of the Optum Analytics portfolio of technologies and services to the provider market in the northeastern US. Before Optum, she was a regional sales director at Wellcentive (now part of Philips Healthcare). Julie earned her B.S. in business administration and marketing from Le Moyne College, where she was also a captain of the women’s soccer team. https://www.linkedin.com/in/juliemannphm/