Vision-Based Buying

Pick your favorite video streaming service and compare it to a random VCR company. If you were to ask them both if they had a pause button, both could honestly reply “yes”, but it would say little about the important distinctions between the underlying technologies of the two and how they ultimately shape the consumer experience.

When evaluating software solutions, behavioral health practices often step into the same trap. A popular method when shopping for software is to send out requests for proposal (RFP) to multiple vendors in the hopes that the best product will emerge. However, the solutions that win bids usually do so because they can answer “yes” the most times to a list of feature inquiries—not necessarily because they are the best fit. The result of this system, unfortunately, is that organizations are often left working with legacy solutions while EHR vendors are offered little incentive to innovate.

New technology, new rules, new process for evaluating EHR platforms

There is good news. The status quo isn’t the only option for organizations looking for a better EHR solution. But finding the right one will require practice owners to adopt a vision-based approach to the software selection process.

Start from the end, work toward the beginning

Take the time to really create a vision of success, and imagine how the organization might build a path to get there. Think in terms of specific and measurable goals, and come to a collectively agreed-upon definition of what the organization hopes to achieve. Goals could include improved administrative and/or clinical efficiencies, higher reimbursement rates, or more measurable care outcomes. With the picture of success considered, it will begin to become clear which technology solutions can support the organization’s vision, and which cannot.

Identify key drivers

Once major goals are identified, what are the critical mechanisms that will drive the organization towards success? Practice owners should build a solid foundation in metrics, which might include speed, throughput, outcomes achieved, or employee retention. Decide which matter and what needs to happen to drive success. Key metrics should demonstrate progress and be easily observed and monitored.

Maintain consistency in scope

Any type of project can fail when the scope expands or shifts. Health care is a data-rich environment, and it’s easy to get lost in the weeds. But it’s important to remember that adding or changing metrics beyond those that support core organizational goals will make things difficult. Technically complex does not mean better, in most cases.

Taking on a new software solution is an opportunity to streamline operations. Organizations realize lackluster returns on technology investment when they try to automate bad existing processes instead of leveraging technology to create more efficient workflows.

Ask the right questions

Questions about feature sets are being replaced by questions about the technology itself. In the past, organizations might have asked if the solution had reporting, could integrate with labs, or had e-signature. But these days questions about scalability and configurability are more pertinent to the value that a solution provides. The data models of modern technology solutions are designed to be accessible and adaptable, so questions about individual features no longer carry as much importance. This represents a great opportunity for behavioral health, for which the regulatory climate is subject to ongoing change.

Use modern technology

The wants and needs of behavioral health organizations today demand more of the technology that supports them, particularly in regards to compliance, automation, interoperability, and business intelligence. It goes without saying—the healthcare industry is rife with outdated software solutions, many of which are decades old.

Legacy systems are generally robust with features on account of their tenure, and it may be temping for a leader to be drawn in for that reason. But health care is an evolving industry, and practices have to account for new and revised regulatory guidance year after year. Any successful, long-term technology solution is one that can respond to change quickly, which, depending on how old the technology is, might be difficult or even impossible. Consultants and referral sources that have been in the business long enough to have an established network are excellent resources for finding the right vendor.

Taking on a fresh perspective of the process of evaluating EHR software will give practices a clear picture of how they can benefit the most from technology. A vision-based buying process, guided by a clear picture of organizational success, will result in value to the organization for years to come.

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