Why health businesses and initiatives fail when clinicians aren’t at the table

Bill Crounse 2007 03In 30 years as a physician, technologist, hospital executive, company co-founder, industry evangelist and thought leader, I’ve seen my share of successes and failures in the health industry.  I’m always amazed how many companies tackle projects and initiatives in healthcare without direct involvement and continual guidance from people who understand the nuances of the industry better than anyone else – clinicians.  Admittedly, clinicians may have a somewhat jaded and protective viewpoint about what goes on in health and healthcare, but they are absolutely central players who must never be ignored. 

imageA hospital or health system’s most important customer is the patient, right?  That’s what most people not familiar with the industry might think.  But you’d be wrong.  The life blood and revenue stream of a hospital is the clinicians, especially physicians, who imagework there.  Without the physicians, nurses and other clinicians, pretty much everything else would come to a screeching halt.  I’ve seen many a board chair or CEO try to take on a powerful, high-revenue generating physician specialist only to lose his head in the process.  In healthcare, spending and revenue starts with the stroke of a physician’s pen, or increasingly these days, the entry of clinical orders into a computer.  This gives clinicians an amazing amount of power – power that can just as easily be deployed to take things down as it can to make them work.

imageAnd it’s not just in hospitals or direct patient care environments where clinicians must be involved.  All enterprises would be wise to have clinicians at the table, and sometimes at the helm, of any initiative, product or service that touches patient care.  How many times have I watched companies take on healthcare by putting business generalists in charge.  Believe me, I’m not suggesting that clinicians should necessarily run these companies.  Most doctors are terrible business people.  But clinicians must work side by side with business leaders as trusted advisors, confidants and experts to shape strategy, test concepts, and win over other clinicians if a product or service is going to survive or make a difference in the crazy quilt we call healthcare.

imageSo if you are designing a product or service that in some way touches patient care or whose success depends on adoption and use by clinicians, please engage these experts early on and keep them closely linked every step of the way.  Give these highly educated leaders the respect they deserve, not necessarily for their business acumen, but for their keen intuition and years of experience on what works, what doesn’t and why in healthcare.  You’ll save your investors and everyone else in your enterprise a lot of grief if you do. That is perhaps the most valuable advice I can give you, and it didn’t cost you a cent.

Bill Crounse, MD                    Senior Director, Worldwide Health                          Microsoft


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