Would You Rather Manage a Nuclear Power Plant or Buy Healthcare Technology?

The following is reprinted from my recent guest blog posting at Future Healthcare Today.  To see the original posting, please visit: 



If I asked you if you’d rather manage a nuclear power plant or buy a healthcare technology, what would your answer be? You might be wondering, “What kind of choice is that?” But in fact, many senior healthcare executives would probably run from both options as fast as they could.

Even though these healthcare executives may be great leaders and managers, what could they possibly know about the technical aspects of the nuclear power industry? They would have to be completely dependent on their scientific advisors’ recommendations

  • What if the experts are wrong when they say the early warning alarm system in Reactor #2 is just fine? Whose head would roll if a failed alarm resulted in a nuclear inciden
  • What if their real motive for insisting you increase their budget by 30 percent or else face technological obsolescence is to expand their own power base? How can you tell what the real spending priorities should be?

These feelings of uncertainty often parallel the stomach churning experienced by healthcare executives thrust into medical technology or healthcare IT. There are three reasons for this discomfort:

  • As with nuclear plants, many executives know little about the nuts and bolts of healthcare technology. Even if they are fairly comfortable with it, tech is such an ever-changing world that what they knew a year ago is probably obsolete today. So they have to rely on technical experts, and they are being asked to manage something they don’t really “get.
  • There’s a good chance they have personally been burned by a major technology fail, through either unfulfilled promises or major cost overruns
  • Maybe, just maybe, they know a CEO or other senior executive who literally lost his or her job because of a bungled EHR implementation or other major technology project disaster.

So if you regularly try to show senior executives the virtues of your technology, these dynamics will keep many hospital executives from enthusiastically embracing you and your product or solution.  Don’t be surprised if they treat you like the ex they accidently bump into while on a family vacation.

So what should you do if you have to convince executives to trust your product or solution?  Here are some suggestions:

  • Recognize the climate you are selling into. You can’t change their apprehensions, so think through ways to put them at ease and build your credibility
  • Minimize their feelings of intimidation. Leave the jargon home. Explain your product or service in language that mortal humans can understand
  • Don’t join the ranks of vendors who overpromise and under-deliver. Be upbeat but realistic about what your product or service can and can’t do. And be honest about installation and timeline challenges. Vendors love to talk about “long-term partnerships.” It’s hard to consider someone a partner once they have shown themselves to be unreliable just to make a sale.

Having a realistic picture of why not every executive will embrace your product or service is a first step in overcoming the challenges.