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June 18, 2005
MYTH: Physicians are Resistant to New Technologies
REALITY: Marketing 101: NEVER EVER Blame the Customer for not Buying Your Product!!!
[Beware — this post is really more of a personal rant — so let me apologise in advance for being a bit meandering and repetitive — cgm]
This may seem obvious to even the most casual observer of business practices and marketing. However, this simple and basic truth has never caught on big in the healthcare IT markets.
Yes, the structure of healthcare is a bit different — purchase decision-makers aren’t always the payers; goods and services are usually delivered prior to determination of ability to pay; high-end and low-end care are essentially identical; government regulators, lawyers, and other third-party for-profits and non-profits run rampant through out the system, etc. — but a customer is still a customer in any market. The customer is always king. It is always the customers who determine the existence of a market and whether or not you will have a successful product within that market.
Again: Obvious, Obvious, Obvious …
I thought this myth was dead and buried years ago — but I am still seeing this myth appear again and again as a subtle, and often not so subtle, assumption in a steady stream of healthcare business plans that pass across my desk.
This is a deadly “emperor has no clothes” assumption and is probably one of the leading contributors to failed start-ups in the healthcare marketplace.
The Myth of Physician Resistance to the Adoption of New Technologies
This observer and others have written extensively on this “Physician Resistance Myth” but apparently to no avail as this myth just refuses to die a quiet death.
In most markets, when a product or service has poor sales or market adoption, it is taken as evidence that the product itself does not meet the needs of the target market. In other words —
poor sales is evidence there is something defective in the product offering — not evidence there is something defective in the customer.
Not so in healthcare!
It is a longstanding tradition for marketeers of new healthcare IT products and services to blame their target market for not purchasing their wares, not the product itself.
The physicians are always at fault — never the products. Physicians are labelled as “technophobes”,“ slow adopters”, “resistance to change”, “very conservative” etc. — yet, in reality, they are often early-adopters of very Byzantine technologies which have demonstrated real value to their patients or their practices.
This dubious claim of “physician resistance” is a mantra heard again and again throughout the healthcare IT industry – as if it were
Imagine a product manager at P&G telling senior management about “homemaker resistance” was the reason for sluggish sales of his product line. I would suspect a pink slip will be greeting him when he returns to his office.
This convenient pattern of face-saving vendor-denial is pandemic in healthcare IT. It is always the physician resistance to the new product or service offering that is somehow slowing down sales — never the possibility that what we are selling them might be, in some way, defective or not really addressing a true customer requirement.
The result of this collective vendor delusion are very twisted and self-defeating behaviours which have been holding back these companies for years. Only rarely do these companies actually question their basic assumptions about the market and their products role in that market.
For example, this myth that physicians are somehow to blame for not purchasing new clinical systems has led to a rash of self-serving studies by software vendors to attempt to demonstrate tangible financial benefits that would be conferred to physicians if they only “buy” their systems (ie spend time, money, and extra-effort)
We must note this is not the first time physicians have been asked to bear the brunt of a new burden (in time, money, and effort) which is ostensibly “in their best interests” (e.g., managed care initiatives of the 1990s). Physicians have a long history of being burned by such schemes and are highly skeptical of any “long-term bottom line savings (in time, moeny, and effort)” which requires an “initial up-front investment (in time, money, and effort)”. Not to mention that, unlike other professions, physicians have no ability to “pass through” new expenses, since their reimbursements are fixed by the government and third party payers.
Secondly, even if it could be convincingly demonstrated that physicians could realize “savings” (in time, money, or effort) using any of these systems, to try to convince physicians to “pay” (in time, money, and extra-effort) when physician recognise all too well that stake-holders other than the patients and the physicians are the true beneficiaries, verges on the idiotic and once again reinforces physician skepticism – “yet another scheme in which the physician pays (in time, money, and extra-effort) and someone else benefits (other than the patient or the physician)”.
Physicians know that the benefits (in time, money, and effort) conferred to physicians are overblown, theoretical, and pale in comparison to the huge tangible benefits realized by the payers (not the deliverers or the recipients) of healthcare.
So, let’s try one more time — repeat after me:
NEVER EVER Blame the Customer for not Buying Your Product
Posted by cmayaud at 01:50 PM | Permalink| Comments (2)
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Excellent post! I am a physician and have always embraced technology, but I am from a younger generation. I was at a recent meeting in D.C. at the American Academy of Ophthalmology where I learned that:
1) Senior physicians were designing their own electronic medical record systems;
2) Senior physicians demonstrated to me the utility of Blackberry technology;
3) Senior physicians will embrace technology if younger physicians take the time to show them the benefits.
During residency, I utilized compact digital cameras to change the way rounds presentations were delievered. When my senior residents were drawing what they saw on call, I was showing my department the photos instead: Digital photography
I then created a website allowing physicians to share case reports online: EyeRounds.org
To my surprise, the number one contributor to the online atlas that I created is an 82 year old retired ophthalmologist from NY! Awesome. This man is 82 y.o. and using the internet to share his knowledge.
Although my ophthalmology department has not been open minded to new technologies, I am finding that with my help and guidance, people are now understanding the utility of Internet publishing, digital photography, and electronic textbooks.
I've also worked with the American Academy of Ophthalmology to create eyeOrbit.org where this site allows sharing of information and indexing of case reports like the ones presented on EyeRounds.org. I am trying to encourage Universities to publish their case reports in a public medium so that everyone has access. Google and sites like eyeOrbit.org can be our card catalog in the 21st Century.
Dr. Mayaud is absolutely correct that we SHOULD NEVER BLAME our customers for not buying our products. We must make our products irresistable so that our customers DESIRE our products.
Thanks for sharing your knowledge with the us! Your website is OUTSTANDING.
Posted by: Andrew Doan at June 19, 2005 08:46 AM
I'm doing a search for business development managers for a large healthcare network on Ontario. I'd heard that physicians are resistant to technology and one of my candidates told me that it is true - but for legitimate reasons.
In terms of their immediate activities (in my case) the technology slows them down. They have to see that the sales person understands that. Also, the software has to be aligned with the doctor's practice guidelines meaning they have to be able to use it in their sleep; not because it's easy but because it allows them to continue practicing it as they did without it.
Posted by: Canadian Headhunter at June 20, 2005 02:56 PM
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