As anyone living in a large metropolitan area can attest, the healthcare industry is booming. And with the passage of the Affordable Care Act, more Americans are now insured than ever before. The result? A higher demand for quality healthcare services – across the country – and a growing investment in technology by hospitals, clinics and private practices.
For value-added resellers (VARs), the healthcare boom means an exciting, emerging business opportunity. An increasing number of healthcare facilities are now in the market for solutions that include videoconferencing, interactive training systems, electronic patient records, mobile devices (particularly tablets and smartphones), paging systems, integrated operating rooms and more. And as our nation as a whole becomes increasingly connected and reliant upon digital technology, we can only expect our healthcare providers to continue following suit.
Remember that, like in most verticals, pro AV in healthcare has its own set of unique characteristics, challenges and opportunities. Keep in mind these tips for selling pro AV technologies to healthcare institutions:
1. Become comfortable with consumer-pro integration.
One of the biggest trends for pro AV in healthcare is technology that improves and facilitates doctor-patient communication. Since much of this comes in the form of video chats between a doctor’s office and a patient’s home, VARs should familiarize themselves with ways to integrate pro AV technology with consumer endpoints, including Skype, FaceTime and other common platforms.
As InfoComm points out, this could also be a useful application for medical schools, where students use consumer technology to link up with pro AV-produced tutorials and videos.
2. Expect a long sales cycle.
As Infocomm International pointed out recently, the healthcare AV market has a long sales cycle that might pose a challenge for some VARs. Pro AV in healthcare projects typically take longer than those in other verticals – sometimes, up to three years – due to multiple stakeholders, red tape and strict regulations. If you’re making a move into the healthcare field, be prepared for lengthy projects and, in many cases, a lot of time between contracts.
If your VAR business has a strong foundation of other projects, and you’re smart about managing your cash flow, the healthcare market can pay off significantly. Just know that this is not the place where a VAR is going to “get rich quick.”
3. Familiarize yourself with healthcare regulations.
The healthcare industry operates through its own unique set of rules and regulations. Many of these, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), are designed to protect patients' privacy around their health history.
HIPAA in particular impacts the way in which technology can be used to communicate or display a patient's health information. Familiarize yourself with these types of regulations now, and you'll be in a much better position to serve your healthcare customers' needs as you're designing an AV solution for their facility.
4. Be prepared to work closely with IT.
In other markets, you might find yourself working with customers who are part of their organization’s media, marketing or even operations staff. But at most healthcare facilities, AV design, implementation and support will fall under the IT department.
Expect these end users to be especially interested in solutions that are intuitive and integrated across the entire organization, rather than being applicable to only one or two departments. This will help the IT staff to make a stronger case for AV technology to management (and other stakeholders).
5. ROI is king.
Your healthcare customers will likely invest significant money into their AV technology – sometimes, tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. And despite the fact that U.S. healthcare is growing, many hospitals and clinics are struggling to turn a profit.
Be prepared for ROI to be a huge deciding factor for your healthcare clients. When necessary, present some lower-cost alternatives if a certain solution is too expensive. And make sure the stakeholders understand all the ways in which their investment will benefit their facility, such as improved patient service and comfort, more accurate medical records or more efficient doctor and nurse decision-making.
What are your must-have tips for selling pro AV in healthcare? Have you found it difficult to break into the healthcare vertical? Why or why not?