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9 brutally honest quotes from health systems and tech vendors on partnering with each other

By Paul Trigonoplos

December 14, 2022

    My team recently interviewed ~25 health system and technology vendor executives to understand how their partnerships with one other struggle and how to improve them.

    Our main finding was that while both health systems and technology vendors want to improve shared successes, neither health systems nor vendors have a comprehensive, impartial view of all the dynamics and drivers at play on the "other side."

    Further, because the two sides do not have honest discussions with each other or fully understand what the other side of the negotiating table is dealing with, behavioral changes are rarely made, and a blame-game ensues. This too often results in each side taking a combative, "they are the problem" position instead of coming together collaboratively.

    Don't believe me? See what actual executives told us in private (quotes are anonymized):

    What health system executives wish tech vendors better understood:

    • "I wish vendors would accept how many valid reasons there are behind saying no. There are thousands of tech companies, and they all do the same thing—can't we just wait a year and see what fails or gets bought? There is value in waiting."
    • "A lot of vendors came to me and said, 'we want to be your partner,' but I always said, 'I want you to be a good vendor, and then maybe over time we can become partners.' Full-on, equity sharing partnership isn't always the goal, but it's put out there like a carrot in front of a rabbit too often."
    • "We don't know the contract side of things like [vendors] do. Vendors could do well by lifting responsibility from us to figure out which platforms go together and making us joint offers. The vendor ecosystem needs to figure out how to fit with health systems better instead of having health systems figure it out on their own."
    • "I have seen the consequences of a vendor always saying yes to our requests. You create something that's universally loved, but it doesn't fit into the vendor's strategy, so five years in the tool gets sunset and the system is screwed. Think about the patients or doctors here. This is a career ending move for system CMOs or CIOs, all because the vendors don't set boundaries."

    What tech vendor executives wish health systems better understood:

    • "Once a health system has signed a sales contract, they and their subsequent requests are no longer our number one priority. It's on to the next sale."
    • "There are vendors that see every health system as a nail, and there are systems that see every vendor as a hammer. In reality, a good partnership is much more nuanced and explorative than that. It takes hard work to find a good match. The problem is that vendors these days are like squirrels, we chase any sale we can get our hands on. So, it is really up to health systems to scope us out."
    • "Stop looking at product specific specs. The size, shape, and number of clicks of this new thing you bought—none of it matters. It's the strategy and vision that health systems need to look for."
    • "If I had one ask of health systems, it's that they stop relying on vendors to run circles around their middle management to accomplish something."
    • "Health systems are 1,000 points of 'no.' If they don't engage IT and clinical teams early and get everyone on board and willing to support implementation, they are wasting their money."

    To begin remedying the tension represented in the quotes above, Advisory Board's advice to both sides is simple: Talk and listen to each other. No organization can improve unless they know exactly how they are contributing to the problem. 

    The research questions we are—and aren't—asking about tech vendor-health system partnerships


    The dynamic between health systems and tech vendors can be chaotic.

    Advisory Board International's Paul Trigonoplos breaks down initial findings from his research on vendor-health system partnerships and the sources of the friction between both parties. Read on to learn where our new research is heading.

    Read more

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