A Checklist for Finding the Right Clinical Champion

dangreenfield Clinical Champion 0 Comments

A Clinical Champion Relationship Is a Two Way Street

Clinical ChampionOver and over again, physicians I’ve talked to stress that companies need a clinical champion when launching a new HIT or health tech product or service.

White papers, case studies and other marketing content certainly matter. But a physician insider or advocate serving as your clinical champion opens doors and establishes credibility.

As your representative, they speak as peers; they share a common background and understand the needs and politics of their audience.

In my conversation with Dr. Arlen Meyers, we discussed the needs of HIT and  health tech companies and physicians in building a successful clinical champion partnership.

I’ve interviewed Dr. Meyers before about the complex relationship between physician and entrepreneur.

Dr. Meyer is professor emeritus of otolaryngology, dentistry, and engineering at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and the Colorado School of Public Health and President and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs (SOPE).

The Society is a non-profit  global biomedical and healthcare innovation network founded to enable healthcare professionals, entrepreneurs and industry stakeholders to connect and collaborate.

My key takeaway from our conversation is that a clinical champion relationship is a two way street. It’s more than how much compensation a clinical champion will get for making a few phone calls. To make a compelling case, you must address what’s at stake for a physician and consider the costs and benefits for him or her in taking on a clinical champion role.

Below is a clinical champion checklist of considerations for health tech or HIT companies.

Clinical Champion Checklist

Define the Value Proposition

Arlen Meyers, MD: Health tech companies come to me on a regular basis. In each case, I have to look at all the tangible and intangible benefits vs the tangible and intangible costs.

Essentially you want me to be a champion of your product or business because you are having a hard time getting past the gate keeper and need someone to open the door and sell your product.

In order for me to be an advocate, I need to be engaged. It can’t be for innovation alone. Very few people will put in the time and effort for just that. It be can’t just be for a success or referral fee because that compromises my integrity. In order for me to be engaged, I need a trusting relationship with you.

You need to answer the following: What role do you expect me to play? What is the deliverable?  What is the timeline? How are you going to compensate me to do it?  How are you going to address my barriers to get this done?

It comes down to the value proposition. You need to understand what I have to gain or what problem I’m trying to solve through my involvement with you.

Understand Internal Dynamics That a Clinical Champion Faces

Arlen Meyers, MD:  When trying to make inroads into a hospital with your innovative solution you need to understand that inside champions have to serve two masters.

They have to serve the outside person (the HIT or health tech company with the innovative solution) and they have to serve the organization and satisfy the requirements of their employers and culture where they work. Often times the two are in conflict. Sometimes the place where they work doesn’t have a supportive innovative culture.  Or policies, procedures or leadership don’t support it.  So the inside champion is caught. Which master do I serve?

It works when there is alignment, not conflict. Unfortunately that’s rare. And it’s one of the reasons why outside people have such a hard time getting inside.  The culture doesn’t support innovation.

If you can give me something that saves me time, produces better outcomes and doesn’t interfere with my workflow, and possibly contributes to income, I am listening.

Define the Clinical Champion’s Role

Arlen Meyers, MD: It starts with understanding what role you’re looking the clinical champion to play. It’s comes down to one or a combination one of the 7 M’s:

  1. Money is I want you to find rich doctors who will invest in my product, or angel networks or high net worth individuals.
  2. Marketing is I want you to eliminate the gatekeepers, connect me to your network and get me through the door.
  3. Making Something is I want you help me develop this product based on your domain expertise.
  4. Management is I want you to be a member of my company board of advisors, directors or officers. I want you to provide management expertise based on what I’ve read about you.
  5. Manpower is I need data scientist who can help me solve a technical problem, and you have academic resources or students who can help.
  6. Monitoring the Environment is you have a big network and a finger on the pulse of what’s happening in healthcare. I want you to keep abreast of trends. You are my eyes and ears and help me do a SWAT analysis.
  7. Maturity is the clinical and business judgment derived from years of experience. While difficult to measure, instincts and that gut feeling are invaluable if they contribute to preventing the wrong move or step.

Finding a Clinical Champion

Arlen Meyers, MD: Quite simply you have to ask around.  Most people know who the champions are and who the gatekeepers are. They know the connectors, mavens and salespeople.  If they can’t help, maybe they can suggest someone. Typically it’s a small network and everyone knows one another.  Search Google and look for key opinion leaders who write, publish or use social media.

Making Sure It’s Good Fit

Arlen Meyer, MD: Off the bat you don’t know if it’s a good fit. Generally first impressions are pretty reliable but when it comes to trust and having the same priorities, the only way you’re going to know that is to do it.  It’s like dating.

Identifying an Exceptional Clinical Champion 

Arlen Meyers, MD: What does it take to get from a domain expert to a strategic thinker. 100 percent of doctors are domain experts. They’re doctors and experts in taking care of patients. That doesn’t mean they all have credibility. To move a doctor from domain expert to credibility takes people skills.

To move someone with credibility to someone who has a the ability to align execute and engage a community takes leadership skills. In order to move someone from execution/alignment to strategic thinking takes an entrepreneurial mindset. Truth is there are very few people who can do that.

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