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Harnessing Early Adopters in Health IT

Part of the thrill of working in health IT comes from bringing something more than just a cool widget to market. As a nurse myself, I want to help fellow clinicians with software that solves problems. And, as part of the development process, we seek to partner with health systems to address their specific challenges.

Of course, not every health system can serve as an IT partner – but luckily, some customers are in a position to play a larger role by acting as early adopters.

Early adopters are willing to collaborate with a vendor and openly discuss the challenges they face. Early adopters understand the triumphs and trials of health IT implementation, and are willing to take a calculated risk.

Most importantly, early adopters do not want a Band-Aid to patch up a systemic wound. Their goal is to truly integrate the solution into their daily operations, and then communicate its underlying value on an ongoing basis. In short, early adopters want to have a measurable impact.  

Three Ways to Identify Early Adopters

  1. Early adopters show serious interest. They typically express interest in a core product to address an existing problem, and are willing to help develop it further or pilot the existing solution. They understand the pain points that accompany this decision, but are willing to work through them to reach solutions. Early adopters understand the scope of technology and the importance of communication.
  2. Early adopters are in your midst. They are often existing customers. That means you have already invested time in the relationship and should possess a deeper understanding of their challenges. Seek ways to bring additional relevance and value to the relationship. After all, the first technologies to face the chopping block typically solve very simple, isolated issues. Tech that endures brings the most value, and can address multiple problems across an organization.
  3. Early adopters have ideas. They may want to customize the current product to address their specific issue, which could offer broader applications. In response, vendors must differentiate between customization and product enhancements. After all, many health IT solutions have a standardized framework, and customization is limited. Vendors must ask themselves: Is it worth the development costs for a single piece of customization? Or is this request a potential feature other costumers will find value in as well? Take a step back and evaluate if this is a truly innovative enhancement, and if this is the right customer to act as an early adopter.

Is Being an Early Adopter Worth It?

I won’t sugarcoat it: being an early adopter takes work. It requires nurturing and relies on human and financial resources. A project can take a year or more to bear fruit, which means a significant investment for both parties. However, that risk can also bring big rewards.

Early adopters can position themselves as forward-thinking, which supports clinician attraction and retention, and helps maintain a loyal patient base. By working to identify success metrics, early adopters can also point to measurable impact, such as reducing length of stay.

Vendors can also benefit from success metrics by showing other customers both an attractive ROI and an ability to work closely with leading medical centers to deliver results.

The successful early adopter/vendor relationship will result in an improved product. Most importantly, the lessons learned will ultimately benefit the most important part of this equation – the patient.

Written by
Scott Corbitt
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