Three Ways to Separate False Promises from Real Opportunities
In recent years, the number of new health IT companies and solutions on the U.S. market has skyrocketed. In 2017, the digital health industry saw its biggest year for venture funding with 345 deals, compared to 89 in 2011. This growth is due in part to health systems, which are increasingly looking to health IT solutions to support the migration to value-based care. However, as the vendor market gets more crowded, it can be hard for hospital C-suites to identify the right technology partner and differentiate those with staying power from those who will fall short.
Successful technology integration requires partners who will work alongside providers to meet their day-to-day needs and understand the end goal of improving patient care. Understandably, hospital executives may not know where to begin or which questions to ask potential partners when first beginning this arduous vetting process. Taking these three steps will support a thoughtful and strategic approach that helps decision-makers make the strongest choice.
1. Know what to look for in the technology
With so many vendors introducing new and innovative solutions, it can be tempting to choose the ‘latest and greatest’ on the market. Some of these solutions serve a long-range purpose and possess strong potential, while others will likely be a passing fad. In other words, do not get fooled by the bells and whistles. Before beginning the vetting process, make sure everyone understands the problem the technology needs to address. This will keep health system leaders on track during their search by defining the key characteristics that a solution must have.
Once these characteristics are determined, look at all options, and be sure to avoid picking the first company that addresses the issue. It is important to consider how each potential solution would fit into a hospital’s existing infrastructure. Therefore, look for technology that can interoperate with current solutions and scale as organizations and patient populations continue to grow. This type of evaluation requires a comprehensive understanding of a hospital’s technological infrastructure before any partner conversations occur. That way, decision-makers can be ready with specific questions around solution integration.
Another critical piece of the vetting process involves ensuring the technology is easy to use and adopt for the end user. Open a dialogue with affected employees to understand how introducing new technology affects their day-to-day workflow. Avoid tools that require a total workflow overhaul, because this could negatively impact the amount of time and attention clinicians can dedicate to patient care. Vendor solutions aimed at improving existing operations will maximize the likelihood that organizational needs are met, potentially resulting in lower implementation costs.
2. Know how to identify the right vendor partner
In addition to identifying the right technology, it is important to select a vendor that offers long-term support to ensure a successful implementation. When looking at different vendors, do research to make sure their businesses are on track to succeed and that their goals demonstrate forward-thinking value. These qualities may help reduce the risk of issues or conflicts down the road.
Another factor to consider is an organization’s age. The length of time a vendor has been in the market can provide context for their stability and overall expertise. If the company has been in the market for a while, do some research to find out if they have been able to adapt to healthcare’s constant changes. In the case of a start-up, a conversation with the company’s leader will be helpful to understand who is behind the operations and whether they have the expertise necessary to deliver on their promises.
When evaluating different vendors, also look at their previous implementations at hospitals or health systems similar in size and complexity. Ask about these deployments specifically to find out how successful they were and whether they ran into any issues. If so, make sure to ask how they overcame these challenges. Vendors who have overcome barriers to success are often more mature than those who have not – particularly if they are open to discussing how they can apply their learnings to a new potential partnership.
3. Take time and be confident in the decision
Hospitals and health systems must be thoughtful about which vendors they choose for their IT solutions. As with any high-demand market, some vendors will offer solutions outfitted with bells and whistles that distract from their truly impactful capabilities. Other vendors may not be equipped to outlast market instabilities.
Hospital decision-makers should take the time to understand which technologies and vendors will be able to address their specific issues and provide long-term support. By asking the right questions and thoroughly evaluating all options, it becomes much easier to choose the right solution and partner for sustained success in the evolving value-based care environment.