Unless you work in the information technology (IT) department of your organization, making technology decisions is not something you do every day. The options can seem daunting and the information overwhelming, but making well-informed — or ill-informed — IT decisions can have a significant impact in your healthcare organization. So for those of us who use technology regularly but don’t necessarily have a standard or repeatable process for evaluating and selecting technology solutions, how do we feel confident we’re making the right decisions?
The first step is to understand your current and anticipated business challenges. This is where you are the expert. As a healthcare provider, your expertise is in delivering the best care to your patients and residents. So to select IT solutions that will provide the most value to your organization, you must have a thorough understanding of your needs, both now and for the foreseeable future.
Next, as with any decision, do your research. There are obvious sources to consider — your peer network, for example, is an excellent source of referrals and references. A web search would be another obvious path. A less obvious, yet equally valuable, source of information is vendor sales representatives. Leverage the rep’s knowledge of their company’s solutions by asking them what makes them capable of addressing your needs. Ask them about their competitors to get not only a broader view of the options but also to gauge how much they know about the market. Ask them for examples of companies they work with in post-acute care or in your geographic area to learn more about how they can address your specific business issues. Based on their answers, you will immediately know if they understand your business and the challenges you face. You will also gain insight into how well they understand the nuances of your industry.
Market-specific research firms are a great place to gather additional information on technology solutions geared specifically to your industry and function-specific needs. KLAS Research, for example, provides peer reviews for hundreds of healthcare technology products, including solutions used in post-acute care. Since KLAS reports are based exclusively on client feedback, you can be confident that you’re getting objective input from users and not an analyst’s opinion on the benefits of the technology.
Once you’ve narrowed down your field of options, you should ask yourself:
- Do the vendors I’ve identified have satisfied customers in my particular market?
- Do you have confidence in the team you’d be working with?
- Not just the sales team, but the people you’ll need to rely on after the sale is closed — the services and support staff, for example.
- Do you see value in building a long-term relationship with this team?
- Remember, you’re not just buying the technology, but also investing in the people, the culture, and their methodologies.
- While it may sound counterintuitive, look beyond ROI.
- In many industries, such as healthcare, it’s not a straightforward “What did it cost and what did I get for it?” equation. There are ‘soft costs’ as well as unquantifiable returns that while difficult to measure, may be equally important when justifying the investment.
- What do the product roadmaps look like? How often will there be new features and product updates?
- Don’t rely solely on today’s features; understand the bigger picture and what’s coming in one year, five years, even ten years. You’ll benefit from approaching this process as selecting a long-term partner, not a short-term solution.
Technology decisions are never ‘one and done,’ so it’s essential to stay abreast of the solutions that can have an impact on your organization, both now and in the years to come. This may seem like a daunting task when procuring technology solutions is not your primary role. So stay focused on the business issues, not the technology. The better you know and can articulate your needs, the easier it will be to identify the right technology solutions. How the technology will address your needs should always be the driver in any purchase decision, not solely the product features or the cost.
As always, leverage your network via industry conferences, online communities, etc. to pose questions, seek objective insights, and exponentially grow your knowledge base. Insights gained from these sources can help you adjust expectations, avoid potential pitfalls, and help you choose the right options for your organization.
Bottom line: You can’t accomplish your goals by throwing a bunch of technology solutions at the wall to see what sticks. Know what issues and challenges you are trying to address; have a plan; benchmark so you can measure progress; establish incremental milestones; take pride in the big wins and be confident in your IT decision-making process.
Editorial Note: A version of this article originally appeared on McKnight’s Long-Term Care News.
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