Selecting the correct healthcare software solution

By Chad A. Eckes
02:11 PM

Most healthcare information technology vendors want you to believe that their software can meet any organization's needs.  As a matter of fact, healthcare IT vendors and their software are quite unique.  The single most important process for a successful software implementation is the selection of the correct solution.

There are several guiding principles that should be taken into consideration when selecting your healthcare software.  First, your IT department should never be the primary entity selecting the software.  The operational users of the software need to be the principal participants in the selection process.  The IT department's role should primarily be to facilitate the solution selection process.  

Appropriate representation takes into account the various disciplines, interest, and expertise in the organization. Second, optimal selection necessitates that a multi-disciplinary team representing the organization's stakeholders be prepared to invest a significant amount of time; typical solution selections require 4 to 6 months and up to 20,000 hours.  The third principle is to not select software based upon previous relationships nor having used the technology in another organization.  The fit of software is highly influenced by the culture and business processes of an organization.  Finally, the best way to find the software with the closest functional fit is to follow a structured selection methodology. In that regard, we have designed a three phase and 12 task selection methodology, which follows a standard selection funnel.  

Phase 1:  Requirements Elaboration

  • Define the scope and detailed requirements (functional & technical) of the solution being selected
  • Design the desired processes and create use cases

Phase 2:  Solution Selection

  • Define and document the universe of possible vendors and products
  • Perform the initial web research
  • Distribute a request for information (RFI)
  • Conduct out-of-the-box demonstrations
  • Distribute a request for proposal (RFP)
  • Conduct detailed demonstrations
  • Define the prioritized list of vendors and products

Phase 3:  Validate the Top Three Selected Solutions

  • Complete the technical architecture reviews
  • Conduct the site visits
  • Work with the vendors to true up the proposal and negotiate price

Way prior to beginning the selection process, a number of key individuals should be identified to manage and lead the overall endeavor; key among these individuals is an experienced Project Manager.  Defining the detailed scope of the software you are searching for is critical.  At a high level, the scope will define what functionality you are and are not looking for.  By using the scope alone, you will begin to compile the list of possible vendors and software.  The detailed requirements can be gathered through structured brainstorming sessions with the selection team and/or discovery sessions.  The more people that review and validate the requirements, the better the solution you will receive.  A good place to start in such sessions is to consider what the current system does well and what opportunities exist for improvement.

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