Enterprise Ireland’s North America Healthcare Forum offered a wealth of advice for companies with plans to sell into the continent’s top health systems.
Innovative healthcare solutions providers shared insights at the initiative, which brought together leadership from the US and Canada’s healthcare sectors.
These included RelateCare, a healthcare communications consultancy and outsourcing organisation that began nine years ago as joint venture between the Cleveland Clinic and call centre specialist Rigney Dolphin. Today RelateCare works with a number of US hospital groups to ensure people get into hospital efficiently.
Resources needed to conquer North American health systems
For chairman and founder Frank Dolphin, the key to entering the US market is to ensure you have enough resources. “If you want to build a business, it’s going to take time, a lot of commitment, and a lot of investment,” he said. “It’s long haul, not short. You have to put down roots there.”
Don’t be put off by the perceived level of differences between North America and other markets, advised Mark McCloskey, president and founder of healthcare company Oneview, which sells its patient engagement and clinical engagement software globally. “Health systems around the world are similar. There are different nuances but the main role is to get patients in, make sure you treat them well and don’t readmit them,” he said.
Oneview specialises in products such as ‘room ready’ applications that speed up turnaround times when hospital rooms are vacated, as well as mobile apps for procedures such as patient discharge or appointment scheduling.
Aerogen, a medtech company that delivers liquid drugs into aerosols, followed the same market entry strategy in Canada as it does everywhere. “We make sure we fully understand the opportunities, what the customer needs and how the hospitals are reimbursed or paid. Then we choose our distributors very carefully, agree targets and a business plan, and work hand in hand with them. For us that has been a recipe that has worked really well,” said Eileen Duffy, the company’s senior vice president of global sales and marketing. “We only enter a market where we have full regulatory approval across all of the segments.”
Her advice is to “make sure you put investment on the ground. Don’t launch until you are ready and can afford to launch, and stay very close to both your customers and distributors.”
Get to grips with reimbursement models
Getting to grips with payment and or reimbursement models is vital, agreed Aoife Ni Mhuiri, founder of Salaso, a provider of digital solutions for online care management of patients.
“Understand, too, where the hospitals are in relation to value based care versus fee per service journey,” she said.
With the move towards value payments, or a bundled payment type model, you can successfully sell once you demonstrate that your technology can increase the capacity, or efficiency, of the service that is being delivered by your customer’s clinic.
Genesis Automation is a Cork company headquartered in St Petersburg, Florida, whose enterprise traceability and analytics platform empowers hospitals and suppliers to improve patient safety and optimise their inventory.
It is quickly growing its staff numbers in the US. Finding talent is an important challenge to get right, particularly as hiring the wrong sales people can be expensive both in terms of real cost and opportunity cost.
“We’ve made mistakes on that front, and as a result have got a lot more scientific in our approach to hiring people,” he said.
Candidates at the company are now interviewed by three people, with a HR person providing a final check.
Differences between states
Don’t underestimate the differences between states, said Frank Dolphin, particularly as they relate to state taxes and regulations. “It’s like operating in the EU. Just as the next country has a different set of rules, so too does the next State in the US. When you come here, you can make the mistake of thinking it’s like the difference between counties at home, it’s not.”
US candidates are particularly good at writing impressive CVs, or resumes. Learning how to read and interpret them is a skill, which adds to the hire cycle, said Dolphin,
Oneview takes a particularly innovative approach. “We get our customers to interview some of our hires,” he said. “They’ll give you very honest feedback and will tell you if the resume isn’t what the person is saying.
Aim to enter a health system and grow within it, said Aoife Ni Mhuiri of Salaso. “We were very fortunate to be one of the companies involved with Northwell Health through their partnership with Enterprise Ireland. Northwell is now also one of our investor companies. One of the reasons we wanted to work with them is because they span every single sector of health care. We started in one area, neurology, and are slowly spreading through their system.”
Such partnerships are invaluable. “Our original relationship with Cleveland Clinic was marvellous, which was facilitated by Enterprise Ireland,” said Frank Dolphin. “Partnering with an organisation like the Cleveland Clinic means others will give you a second look.”
Learn to navigate within the hospitals and the health systems, identifying the decision makers “and helping them to navigate their way through the system too, so they can sell it for you across the service. It’s not as simple as getting the right person and Bingo, you’re in. You might get part of the contract, but then you’ve got to grow within the system,” said Frank Dolphin.
Before embarking on any pilot, agree the key performance indicators that will move you into implementation in advance, warned Mark McCloskey.
“Be wary, make sure you get a firm commitment.” Get a champion too. “We’ve been to final stage meetings in hospitals that have had 20 people around the table, every one with a different opinion. Make sure you have a champion from the C Suite with a very strong voice at the table.”
Before you take your business stateside visit Enterprise Ireland’s dedicated US Market page.