Industry-specific innovations are generally the most customized, and as such the most relevant. The software is being developed for a specific industry and is designed to take care of industry-specific challenges. The benefits of the software are obvious and easy to sell. As such, one would expect the product to be an attractive offering to the health care marketplace. However, in order for physicians to use the software, they must alter several preexisting behaviors, which could prove detrimental to the product's ultimate success.
The handheld device with which doctors will record patient information is of particular concern. Since doctors are used to recording information manually, this wireless device may well prove cumbersome to the uninitiated doctor. Dr. Paul Ziter, who works in a small medical office, speculates that his underdeveloped typing skills would make realtime data entry very time-consuming. He suggests replacing the handheld device with voice recording technology that would enable him to capture information automatically using speech to text technology.
Another potential stumbling block is the use of the ASP model. Traditionally, ASPs have met with limited success in the small business market. Most entrepreneurs are fiercely protective of their businesses and dislike the idea of storing mission-critical or sensitive data, such as financial records or client information, off-site. In addition, a significant number of small businesses do not buy software at all, pirating from friends, families, or members of their professional networks instead.
However, small business owners, including physicians, may be more amenable to a vertical software application delivered via an ASP model. To begin with, vertical software is not as widely distributed, and therefore may be more difficult to borrow from personal connections. Tim Elwell, business development executive in IBM's health care unit, also points out that the ASP model will help streamline IT costs. "According to a PWC/Modern Physician study, a physician's office spends one to three percent of its operational budget on IT-related expenses. This means they can't afford large, sophisticated, stand-alone systems. So centralizing the technology using an ASP delivery model makes a lot of sense." Preliminary research conducted by Pfizer indicates that physicians are open to the ASP model if they see a cost benefit.
Selling a product that involves this much behavior alteration will no doubt be challenging. However, Pfizer's decision to leverage its existing sales force is a wise one. Because Pfizer is a vertical supplier, its sales force is likely to have significantly more clout with the medical community than an account representative from an office supply store or a value-added reseller. Leveraging the know-how and brand recognition of Pfizer, IBM, and Microsoft is expected to influence the purchase decision.
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