Carrie Vaughan, a senior editor of HealthLeaders Magazine published an article in the December 8, 2009 issue titled, “Tips to Build a Successful Vendor-Provider Partnership.” The link to her article is http://www.healthleadersmedia.com/page-2/MAG-243167/Avoid-the-Vendor-Upsell.
The points about which Carrie wrote are spot on. I asked Carrie if she would permit me to use those same points as a foundation for this posting, to which she was kind enough to agree. The four points come from her article. I encourage you to read her piece, as any points with which you may take umbrage are mine, not hers.
To ensure we take an accurate look at the provider-vendor relationship, we must be willing to acknowledge that healthcare providers are from Mercury and the EHR vendors are from Pluto. They exist in different orbits, and their business models are very far apart—they never intersect; not in space, and not on your project.
1. Have your own inside expert. Don’t rely on the vendor to tell you what you should be doing. Never. Ever. Unless of course you think the vendor knows more about how you want to run your hospital than you do. Remember, you select them—not the other way around.
Bringing a vendor into your hospital is a lot like bringing home a new puppy. Both need to know who runs the show. Don’t roll over. They may not be looking to be led, but if you don’t lead them they will lead you.
You should have the expert on board at the outset, before you select the EHR vendor. The expert should be your advocate.
2. Establish a specific executive liaison with your vendor. This is not your new tennis partner. This should be the person who has the authority to ensure your quantifiable wishes are being met, and whose responsibility it is to deliver the message to his troops, and marshal the resources necessary to get the job done.
3. Specify your contractual objectives. Ensure that the contract is aligned with the clinical and business objectives of the healthcare organization, not the vendor. Before you can accomplish this, you have a lot of work to do with your team. You must define your clinical and business objectives. Often these two groups also have a Mercury and Pluto relationship. Once you have these, your next task is to deliver these objectives to the vendor and have the vendor tell you in writing what they will meet, what they might meet, and what they can’t meet. It would be nice to know these before you sign their contract.
4. Involve more people than just the IT staff. Need a rule of thumb, involve as many users as IT people—Mercury and Pluto. You will need new processes, not just to squeeze an ROI from the EHR, but because many of your old ones have probably been around since the invention Band-Aid.
Each of these recommendations will actually help you and help your vendor be successful. It will not be an adversarial relationship as long as you manage it. If you don’t manage the relationship, you won’t have to worry about meeting Meaningful Use—you’ll be too busy selecting a replacement vendor.
One final thought, don’t let the vendor loose unsupervised on the oriental rugs.
In many smaller 200 beds or less hospitals, the internal IT staff are often struggling under constrained budgets or short staff and are not as current with technology as the vendor. This creates a one-sided relationship where the hospital executive staff may realize that the only skill present is the current infrastructure and not much else.
Therefore, #1 is extremely difficult to achieve and may be true with those organizations that have a much larger budget than these smaller hospitals.
Thank you for reading and commenting. I think you made the point I was shooting for. Plenty of people have enough to keep you busy each day. Who among them possesses the additional skills to manage this. Although it sounds self-serving, that’s why I think there is merit in bringing in an expert.
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