Embedding the positive aspects of Virtual working in future engagement with customers and stakeholders

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Given the impact of Covid-19 and the associated lockdown and enforcement of Social Distancing, AXREM member companies have been forced to move from interacting with suppliers, indirect channel partners, NHS and Independent Sector Organisation end user customers and key opinion leaders in the industry predominantly in a combination of face to face and conference call engagement model to a virtual engagement model only. Given recent announcements by UK Government and the devolved nations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, social distancing will be in place for the foreseeable future and public transport and international travel by air (methods of transport often used by the Health Tech industry and end user customers) which have been severely limited recently as a result of the lockdown will continue to be restricted by the impact of social distancing on capacity and potential quarantine periods for travelers both outbound and inbound to the UK.

Whilst we have adapted quickly and well as individual member organisations we recognise that all our interactions with our customers are not best served by Virtual engagement only. Equally, the efficiencies and productivity gains we have experienced working in a Virtual model and the positive impact on the environment and the reduction of our carbon footprint caused by the reduction of travel should not be lost and are an unexpected but welcome result of the lockdown.

We have therefore considered, as an industry, what our post Covid lockdown engagement should be to ensure we do not lose the positive impacts experienced recently, whilst not losing forever the benefits of direct face to face interaction with suppliers, indirect channel partners, customers and key opinion leaders that existed before lockdown.

Below are the proposed future engagement models recommended by AXREM members:

Definitions

“Virtual First” – Virtual meetings should be proposed first in all circumstances. Face to face meetings with social distancing measures enforced should be conducted by exception and offered only where explicitly mandated by the customer and such mandate should be granted equally to all suppliers if part of a bidding/tendering process.

“Virtual Preferred” – Virtual meetings are the preferred platform and should be used where practicable, however it is recognized that some elements may best be served through face to face meetings with social distancing measures enforced and such opportunities should be granted equally to all suppliers if part of a bidding/tendering process.

“Face to Face” – Face to face meetings should be the exception and used only where “Virtual First” and “Virtual Preferred” have not achieved the objectives necessary to conclude business objectives and such opportunities should be granted equally to all suppliers if part of a bidding/tendering process.

Practical examples of where these definitions could apply are provided below (this is not an exhaustive list):

“Virtual First”

Examples include:

  • Customer Contract Review meetings
  • Service Level Agreement/Performance Review meetings
  • Monthly/Quarterly Board meetings

“Virtual Preferred”

Examples include:

  • Market awareness exercises (e.g. Customers seeking to know latest technology offerings available on the market from suppliers)
  • Pre and Post installation Applications Training (where suppliers are able to offer virtual training experiences)
  • Product/Solution demonstrations (where suppliers are able to offer virtual demonstrations)
  • Project Management Meetings
  • Reference Site demonstrations
  • Clarifications and Configuration discussions

“Face to Face”

Examples include:

  • Clinical Site Visits where equipment layout, ergonomics and physical patient flow considerations are critical to the product/solution evaluation
  • Executive Board Meetings
  • Public Relations (e.g. photography/advertising/sponsorship/awards, etc.)
  • Complex and lengthy contract negotiations

We recognise the need for consistency and fairness in procurement to ensure best value for money is offered by suppliers. We also recognise that not all suppliers are necessarily members of AXREM so we encourage our customers – NHS Trusts, NHS Health Boards and Hospitals, Independent Sector providers, backed by the Department of Health and the devolved nations Health Departments – to support AXREM in our desire to provide the most effective and environmentally friendly engagement methods and models and to provide, where necessary, the requisite virtual tools required (PC/laptop, access to Virtual software platforms (Microsoft Teams, Adobe Connect, GoToMeeting, Zoom, etc.) to their staff and have these optimized for best visual and audio quality, to ensure we maintain the positive benefits we have experienced through the use of Virtual engagement and to ensure such engagement is open, fair and commensurate with good procurement practices.

We welcome the recent position adopted by the British Medical Ultrasound Society which underpins the approach AXREM is taking https://www.bmus.org/static/uploads/resources/Advice_and_Guidance_for_Ultrasound_Manufacturers_Visits.pdf

We will continue to keep this position under review.

ENDS