KLAS offers insights into health IT consultants and advisory services

Established firms have good track records, but there are high-performing developing companies, too; as providers tackled bigger strategic initiatives beyond mere EHR rollouts, they need to weigh how much they value experience and performance.
By Mike Miliard
02:19 PM

Now that most health systems have moved beyond technology implementation challenges and are focused on leveraging that infrastructure toward more strategic goals, health IT consultants and advisory firms have also evolved. KLAS has published a new study taking stock of their offerings for this new era.

WHY IT MATTERS
The research firm looks at both established leaders and smaller developing consultancies for its report. As for the former group, it cites Chartis Group, Impact Advisors and Nordic for their track record of experience and strong performance.

Chartis Group clients "are pleased with the firm’s ability to adapt to unique needs. Some describe the firm as expensive," but say the cost is worthwhile for its ability to deliver on desired outcomes.

Clients of Impact Advisors, for instance, "highlight the firm’s strategic expertise, longtime market presence, and experience in many different HIT advisory areas," said KLAS researchers. "They are the only firm with substantial validated experience in revenue cycle optimization.”

And Nordic customers report that its strengths go "beyond just providing strategy recommendations," and point out its deep expertise, especially with regard to Epic implementations.

Among other advisory firms, Huntzinger Management Group was ranked highest overall by customers responding to the KLAS survey: "Many say their Huntzinger resources had the specific knowledge needed to help clients be strategic.”

ECG Management Consultants also came in for high praise, with customers praising its "expertise with specific vendors/software" and reporting that its projects "are well organized and executed."

Leidos Health, meanwhile, "has a relatively broad offering, but the client experience is polarized," said KLAS researchers.

"While the majority of clients are satisfied, a small number have recently had negative experiences, resulting in the lowest overall performance score in this report. Unsatisfied clients say Leidos’ resources were knowledgeable but not fully leveraged," leading to disappointing results on specific initiatives.

Optimum Healthcare IT is the "most experienced of the developing firms and is tied with Huntzinger and ECG for highest percentage of highly satisfied clients. Many clients appreciate that Optimum’s executives and consultants work to help stakeholders understand and implement the firm’s recommendations."

THE LARGER TREND
While recognizable names such as those listed above may be the first choice of many providers looking for advisory help, KLAS also surveyed a new field of "developing" consultants that could also bring value to their healthcare clients.

These are well-performing but still-evolving companies whose experience tends to be in more foundational areas of IT implementation, the research firm explained. They're also distinguished, typically, by high executive involvement, relatively more limited experience with complex projects and clients who are less likely to cite pricing as an issue.

France-based Atos began in IT outsourcing and hosting, and began advisory services after some acquisitions; it's still shaping its identity in the field, according to the KLAS report.

Avaap is known mostly for its ERP implementation work but has "moved more heavily into HIT advisory in 2016 with acquisition of Falcon Consulting (which also helped build the firm’s Epic expertise)," researchers said.

Divurgent, which KLAS singled out for its hands-on execs but said some customers found it expensive, started in implementations and began its advisory services for those clients.

The HCI Group is one of the more "seasoned" firms on this list, and has "validated engagements in all aspects of planning and assessment work as well as one security project," researchers said. Clients, many of whom are repeat customers, "describe advice as practical; some wish it were more detailed."

Prominence, meanwhile, was founded by erstwhile Epic employees, which gives it a leg-up on Epic projects. It's largely focused on analytics work, much of it based around its own analytics platform, according to the report.

ON THE RECORD
"Given the influx of options, organizations are asking KLAS, 'Can the developing firms meet my needs, or are seasoned firms a safer bet?' The answer is that there are many high-performing options in both groups, and organizations must consider several factors to find the best fit," researchers wrote.

Those questions, according to KLAS, boil down to two areas: experience and performance. Providers should look for advisors whose lists of accomplishments for clients have both breadth and depth. And when it comes to measuring performance, there are several questions that should be asked:

"Which firms are performing well now? How consistent are they across clients and over time? How do the firms perform in the critical areas of quality of staff, tools & methodologies and strategic expertise? Which firms will give me the biggest bang for my buck?"

Twitter: @MikeMiliardHITN
Email the writer: mike.miliard@himssmedia.com

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