The healthcare ecosystem is constantly being strained by a variety of factors, including the demands for efficiencies against a landscape of tighter governmental regulations. Add rapidly evolving technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) to this unstable powder keg and you have the potential for additional complications.

The unfortunate news is that IT departments at hospitals and related healthcare institutions are being forced to innovate their way out of this scaffolding. The good news is that there are plenty of solutions that can provide efficient and cost-effective ways of harnessing technology to yield improved outcomes in terms of better patient care, better patient safety and a better work environment for employees, all while keeping an eye firmly planted on the bottom line.

In this evolving landscape, the traditional vendor-supplier relationship is getting a makeover, a reboot that is being accelerated by agile software development pushed through by third-party app developers. How can Philips be a better and equally nimble partner with healthcare providers in a fast-paced apps market? At the Philips' Andover Software Excellence Conference, Ken Berta, Lead, Strategic Alliances and Partnerships, presented a few ideas:

1. Remember that patient data is gold

Figure out data-sharing models with healthcare providers so app developers and Philips can work together without violating patient rights or stepping on each other's toes. All players might have large repositories of clinical data, so it's important to understand where that data comes from and how that information is shared. “There are ways to build those clinical, commercial relationships so that happens efficiently," Berta said.

He cautioned that sometimes, in the age of IoT, there is a rush to market with the next “It" thing, and to not have compliance thought processes built in. Figure out what you are giving up in terms of data, what are you getting in return and keep an eye on intellectual property rights, Berta advised.

2. Work out the kinks before the big reveal

One of the things customers dislike most is environmental testing onsite. “Customers are not as tolerant as they used to be of the science experiment that happens when a system goes down," Berta pointed out. His advice: Work with partners to validate APIs and fix bugs behind the screen.

Customers have already aligned assets and resources to make sure integration happens smoothly, so figure out an environment to validate APIs before launch.

3. Read the tea leaves early

Use strong forecasting models (Philips currently uses to predict what sales numbers are going to look like years down the pike. Such predictive analytics must factor in detailed and specific customer data to proactively work on problems as they arise.

“We have to figure out what portion of this is dependent on our interoperability with different types of systems, whether they're from Cisco or Cerner or anybody else," Berta explained, "so that we can start to tie together what we're building with how that's going to impact our revenue."

4. Leverage all available technology partner programs

Partners such as Cisco might be willing to offer an on-the-ground evaluation of customer health, so you're not reinventing the wheel by sending two sets of experts and wasting the customers' time in the process.

Spread all available resources from technology partners wisely in order to pool intelligence and work efficiently toward final outcomes with respect to the customer, Berta advised. “The customer should not be paying for the same service three times or tying up their IT department three times to make it happen."

5. Iron out the details of delivery

Recognize that the devil is in the details and set the terms of the service clearly with third-party providers: Figure out support terms and ongoing maintenance contract inclusion terms so they're transparent to all parties.

“Every time you sign up for one of these programs, there is a requirement back to the partner," Berta noted. “What's our commitment to our customer should something happen?" Other details: take different business models of fees for a test drive. “Do we launch monitoring as a service? Do we do cost-per-use? Per patient?"

The 21st Century Cures Act mandates certain fluidity of data between providers and government agencies, and this, too, is something that all players at the table need to factor into the equation, Berta advised. “While this starts out as a broader discussion about where this information goes and who gets to it, there are very finite requirement now on what we are required to do to allow our information to flow into other systems. What do we now have to report on? What can be restrained?" It's something new in the landscape that we need to keep an eye on.

Hospitals are facing a fundamental rethink in the way they do business, a process that is being accelerated by smart technologies. Working with third-party app providers and open-source partners is a necessity to maintain a competitive edge in the marketplace.

But there are ways of doing that without losing sight of the customer. “The issue our customers face are outside of our product, but understanding them is key to how we can be a good partner and how we can manage our partners to get them to select us a vendor and provider," Berta said. Focusing on various ways of strengthening that customer relationship will likely yield rich dividends now and in the future.

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