2/22/12 - Why Healthcare IT is Like Duke's Mayonnaise

My wife swears by Duke's mayonnaise.  She will not buy any other brand.  This is a southern thing for those of you not from the southern U.S.  I can't even say whether it's sold in the northeast or northwest, but in Georgia a southern woman has Duke's mayo in the pantry and fridge.  She's used to it, she likes it, and she thinks she needs it.

In hospital settings, healthcare IT vendor relationships are the same.  Hospital leaders, whether clinical, technical, financial, or in HR, all like working with vendors they're used to.  It's hard to break through to them, as a result.  They look at you and they assess you like you're a jar of Kraft mayo trying to elbow your way onto the shelf where the Duke's mayo resides.

This is partially a good thing.  People are naturally drawn to relationships, particularly those that are mutually beneficial.  So loyalty makes pretty good sense.  However sometimes that relationship needs another look, or a new perspective.  Maybe it's not a case of swapping out that Duke's mayo, but instead finding ways to complement it. 

Case in point:  Duke's has radio ads here in Atlanta now about how adding it to chocolate cake batter will give you the best chocolate cake ever.  I don't know that this is true but I believe it based on my long-term experience, and if you want to check out the recipe,.  Be forewarned, there is quite a bit of Duke's mayo in that cake, which I'm guessing replaces eggs, since the recipe calls for none.  Non-mayo lovers are cringing at the thought of this.

Hospitals don't hire like large companies with substantial IT divisions, even when they need IT resources.  They approach it very differently, and not as logically frankly as those large companies would.  For example, Home Depot would readily identify the temporary need for a dozen project managers and then just go bring them in for 4 months each.  They do it often as a matter of fact.  But it's a rare thing for a hospital to look at medium-sized teams to complement their existing staff, and as a result they could learn a bit from large companies who know how to use temporary resources to great advantage.

You can knock holes in this statement, of course.  There are progressive hospitals who do think this way, but the vast majority fail to look at the cost of not having enough resources when doing a cost-benefit analysis.  The impending bottom line takes precedence over a little broader perspective.  Maybe they need the Duke's mayo team to come in and rethink the norm just a bit.

And maybe that Duke's mayo makes a great cake.  I can tell you this: I wouldn't bet against it.  I'm going to ask my wife who loves to bake to let us know, so stay tuned.

Posted by Jack Williams at 15:59


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