by Sherry Harris
Consultant, Supply Chain Operations
08/13/20

From cost-saving initiatives and quality enhancements to the introduction of new technology that will drive procedural efficiencies, there are many reasons for supply chain leaders to introduce new products to clinicians. But how new products are presented can make or break clinician acceptance.

Supply chain staff have many roles within an organization. They not only procure and contract products, they also perform act as sales representatives, marketing products to clinicians. How the product is presented is incredibly important to drive the buy-in and support needed to get a clinician on board. 

Perception is key to gaining approval. Clinicians must not feel like they are being forced to trial new products; they need to understand why the initiative is important. To overcome any negative perception clinicians may hold about a new product, supply chain must provide education on the product’s benefits.

I once introduced a group of clinicians to a new surgical glove comparable to the glove they had been using that’s patent had run out. The purpose of the exercise was not to change the brand of gloves the physicians were using but to educate them on how strongly their perception controlled their choices and to help them grow in their understanding of the importance of evaluating new products with an open mind.   

Prior to the meeting I re-packaged the gloves by selecting one from each manufacturer and pairing it with one from the other manufacturer. The gloves were virtually identical. From there I placed one package from each manufacturer in front of each person and asked for an evaluation. The results among the surgical clinicians was unanimous: The new gloves were lower quality. They proceeded to tell me all the reasons they shouldn’t trial the new “far less superior” gloves including that they could just feel the lower quality difference and that they disliked the manufacturer. The moral of the story? They could not see past their pre-conceived notions, their perception, to fairly evaluate alternative options that could have reduced costs for this product category.

How do you break the stranglehold perception has on reality? Here are five ways to introduce your products to clinicians to ensure a fair assessment and a favorable outcome.

Define why there is a need for the new product

This is perhaps most important to clinicians. Explain how a product will meet efficacy requirements and bring cost savings using product comparison studies, white papers and financial analysis. Patient safety is always the top priority for a clinician and establishing a strong foundation of how the product will meet all needs will assist getting buy-in.

Define your target audience

End users of products are your key target audience. You want to ensure the audience you are presenting to is going to have hands-on use of the product or otherwise will be someone in a decision-making role for adding or changing products facility wide. Communicating first with the chair of the service line is helpful. This ensures they are on board for future discussions with other clinicians that potentially will use these new products. The chair also could be instrumental in identifying who on their team will take more effort to persuade. Having that discussion with the chair can help create momentum and interest.

Define development of product integration

Present a plan of how the product will be integrated into the hospital — from trial, to product conversion, to training if required. Identifying in advance the key people on your team and what roles they will fulfill will make a smooth transition. The timeline is extremely important and the smooth process helps put clinicians in a more amenable position to converting to new products.

Define knowledge of your product

The end users will want to know everything about the product. They will want to know the cost advantage or disadvantage, the science behind why the product is of better or equal quality as it claims, how attainable the product will be, in what unit of measurement the product will need to be purchased and whether the item will need to be stored or purchased upon request. These are all things that will determine their perception on whether this product is worth further consideration. Use your resources such as bringing in subject matter experts to answer questions as well as having the supplier representative available.

Define Implementation success

Supply chain leaders must be able to assure decision makers that they can implement the changes in an efficient and effective manner. To that end, have an established implementation process in place to share with clinicians so they view the change as a smooth transition. Develop a timeline for when the product will go live for use. Communicate stock depletion of current products as part of the timeline. If you can get the new vendor to perform a competitive swap out, that would speed up the transition.

Once those processes are mapped out, seek clinician feedback of how they would like to see the execution of new product conversions. Gather information and modify the process for what works best in your facility and with the clinicians you work with. Don’t hesitate to grow and mold the process to best fit the needs of your organization.

By explaining the why, defining the process and working with the right stakeholders, the introduction of new products to clinicians will be carried out in a manner your key stakeholders will appreciate and make the transition to potentially better quality, lower-cost products a smoother one.

About the author. As a consultant in supply chain operations services for Vizient, Sherry Harris uses her subject matter expertise to assist member organizations in optimizing their supply chain operations and contract management. With more than 12 years’ industry experience, she possesses an acute understanding of numerous aspect s of supply chain operations.