Navigating the EHR Shopping Process

November 7, 2018

6 essential steps for successful enterprise software procurement

Enterprise behavioral health organizations rely on technology for efficiency, workflow automation, and regulatory compliance. The shifting dynamics of health care mean that from time to time organizations must re-evaluate their technology needs and procure new solutions to help them achieve their goals.

As an EHR solution impacts nearly every aspect of a behavioral health organization, there is a lot of pressure for leaders to choose the right solution. Making the best choice is a matter of observing a few key steps, which are listed below.

1. Gather requirements

The scope of the enterprise software procurement process will be determined by what the organization ultimately needs from its technology. Leaders should think about requirements primarily in terms of business metrics, key performance indicators, and outcomes; organizations sometimes become too focused on how a solution produces these results rather than the results themselves.

A good way to determine product requirements is to shadow any staff that will interact with the solution. Observing process flows will give leaders a better understanding of pain points and afford them a chance to audit process efficiency. Be careful not to fall into the trap of trying to apply a new software solution to a bad existing process. A new EHR is a chance for organizations to start over with a clean slate, and for many, this might include an overhaul of existing workflows that are no longer relevant to organizational goals.

2. Identify key criteria

The challenge for leaders is to think about not just the functionality they ultimately hope to have, but the underlying technology that can make it possible. After spending some time gathering product requirements, it will become apparent that many of the organization’s wants and needs cannot be addressed before some key technological criteria are met. For example, whether or not a technology solution is architected for cloud computing is going to have a direct impact on security, performance, and extensibility. Getting at the core of a solution’s technology will not only ensure that the organization’s current and future needs will be adequately addressed; it should also narrow down the list of potential software vendors dramatically.

Get to the crux of a solution’s technology by asking the right things. We’ve compiled a list of questions here.

3. Research vendors

Let’s face it – technology is a competitive landscape and just about everyone is ready to say why they’re the best. There are going to be a lot to choose from, so organizational leaders should pay attention to some important details when evaluating vendors.

Industry experience
How long has the SaaS company operated within the behavioral healthcare space? Behavioral health organizations have very specific regulatory requirements that need to be satisfied in the software solutions they use. A vendor with good health care experience should already know its way around compliance.

Flexible reporting
As if regulatory compliance weren’t tricky enough on a national level, state-level reporting requirements must be considered as well. Depending on how old the technology is, accommodating state requirements might involve a lot of back-end customization. The good news is that many modern technology solutions are designed to be configured at the administrative level. A good litmus test when evaluating potential vendors is to ask if their technology was built within the past five years.

Sizes of organizations previously served
Any vendor can claim to have an “enterprise” solution, but that word means different things to different people. A vendor should be able to demonstrate that they can handle the scale of a large organization before it is selected, but don’t necessarily be put off if yours ends up being the largest the vendor has ever managed. There are many factors that go into a vendor’s ability to accommodate a large behavioral health organization; it is often a matter of the solution’s scalability, performance, and adaptability.

Long-term value
The process to take on a new software solution is never without its own set of challenges. Each organization’s operational structure is different, and it is during the implementation process that the qualities (or shortcomings) of the vendor’s technology will be obvious. Vendors that tout a quick implementation time are a tempting proposition for leaders concerned over the impact an implementation will have on daily productivity, but many simply don’t have the architectural backbone to grow and expand with technology and healthcare landscapes as they change over time. Long-term scalability and adaptability will always bring the most value to an organization, so when evaluating potential solutions, be sure to ask the vendor about its change management process.

4. Schedule demos

Up until this point, the enterprise software procurement process has consisted of conceptualization and careful planning. Scheduling a demo is where the rubber meets the road. Demos will give end users the opportunity to see how the technology directly supports workflows, such as how many clicks it takes to accomplish a task, how intuitive the interface is, and whether the system actually improves the efficiency of daily work. Ideally, demos should be broken down into segments (clinical, admin, billing, etc.) and have respective staff in attendance. This will encourage buy-in among key personnel and help to smooth out the transition into a new software solution (not to mention narrow the list of possible vendors down to just a few, if not only a couple).

5. Procurement and contract

Once a technology solution has been selected, it’s time to account for everything the organization has learned about what it needs how the solution can satisfy its requirements. Ensure these details are part of the business contract, so that the vendor delivers exactly what the organization has laid out.

Organizations can protect themselves further by tying payments to milestones reached, successful acceptance testing, and guaranteed delivery dates. Sometimes contracts still manage to fall through, leaving organizations at square one, but leaders that secure specific results in writing from the vendor can recoup some of the organization’s losses, should the worst come to pass.

6. Implementation

The implementation process is in many ways just the beginning. Coming up with a detailed plan is the most important part of a successful implementation. The main three factors to consider are gap analyses, implementation timeline, and effective communication throughout the entire organization. Carefully outlining a plan and keeping it transparent will help to encourage staff buy-in and readiness as the organization prepares to go live with the new solution.

Enterprise software procurement is a big time commitment and must be handled carefully. Too often, deals fall through or vendors fail to deliver on promises, costing organizations precious time and resources. Observing the right steps will help to ensure that the organization can pick the best solution to fit its needs, and that it is adequately protected from any significant mishaps along the way.

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Last Updated: November 6, 2018