Why Hospital Workflow and Communications Customers Should Beware of Healthcare IT Carpetbaggers

In the world of technology, we are all dependent. No matter how able an organization is at managing and supporting its systems (software, hardware, infrastructure, or integrations), it’s inevitable that outside help will be required to execute on projects and initiatives.

Like it or not, a lot of technologies don’t easily fit into the standard health system or hospital help desk model. In 2019, this is sometimes worsened by certain manufacturers or solution developers deliberately handicapping their customers by not allowing them to maintain key elements of the technology they purchased.

If you remember your high school American history, Carpetbaggers appeared during the Reconstruction Era and opportunistically took advantage of southern states’ post-war misfortune for their own profit.  They did their thing and moved on—never to be heard from again. At their worst, healthcare IT businesses have been known to do the same: big projects are planned, expectations are raised, large investments are spent, and the technology carpetbaggers (the manufacturers or integrators) do their work and disappear…often leaving bewildered end-users in their wake.

Then What?
One of our regional customers planned a major showcase initiative involving workflow, alarm management, messaging, and nurse call with help of a nationally recognized healthcare IT consultancy. The requisite planning meetings were had, the design decisions made, the hardware and software installed, the users trained. But then what?

In a story that those of industry have seen played out many times, erroneous assumptions were made, key requirements were not articulated, insufficient testing was performed, the multiple systems in the solution were not adequately orchestrated, the solution providers were pit against each other fighting for the integrity of their platform, and no budget remained to correct the solutions’ shortcomings.

In the end, the component solution providers stood their ground regarding their contractual obligations, and the poor clinicians got completely short-changed. All the goodwill that the organization built up for the solution deflated unnecessarily, and the entire initiative is likely to stall.

The question becomes, how should an healthcare organization think about getting support? And who is in the best position to help?

  1. Keep your technology partners engaged together, and pay them for it.  Negotiate for substantial on-site go-live support and additional hands-on assessments, re-design and training as required at regular intervals throughout the first year of use.  If your users don’t adopt new technology and processes within the first 60 days, the desired results are unlikely to be achieved. Define the scope of the project through successful adoption,  not just initial deployment. Keep your partners involved, together—and be willing to pay for it. Yes, it will increase the price. But it’s well worth paying a bit more up front to decrease the risk of wasting the entire investment.
  2. Customer intimacy trumps all. While it’s great that the old-fashioned service call is not always required to remediate your nurse call system or adjust a workflow process, the technicians who carry out those services know a lot about your systems that someone overseas or halfway across the country just doesn’t know. While one doesn’t need a nearby bricks and mortar presence to be intimate with the inner workings of your facility, it often helps. As you evaluate new solutions or reevaluate the management of existing ones, factor in what kind of long-term relationship is possible with your provider.
  3. Make sure to plan for Day 2 and beyond. Even the smallest of initiatives are likely to have post-deployment maintenance, support, and future growth requirements. As you work to execute a minor renovation, even a seemingly small swing of rooms may require database changes, workflow adjustments, or report modifications that you may not take into account. Ask the solution supplier or integrator handling your account how these maintenance and expansion tasks get handled. How will you be charged? What service levels can you expect?
  4. Do you have a Software Maintenance Agreement (SMA)? And what does it entitle you to? Nearly every contemporary software and hardware solution that will comprise your nurse call, alarm, workflow, messaging and voice solution will require an SMA. At its most limited function, an SMA is likely to entitle your help desk to call theirs. If there’s any complexity to your solution, that may not be enough. Given that the solution might really be a system made up of multiple systems, you as a customer may end up in a turf war unless the solution providers are cooperative or delivered under the same umbrella.

Kenny Schiff is Managing Partner and Founder of CareSight.  A 20-year veteran of the healthcare technology business, Kenny is considered by his customers and peers to be a no-nonsense, trusted resource who can be counted on to deliver complex solutions with high impact. His team pioneered managed services to clinical communications customers starting in 2003. Visionary always, but never afraid to be hands-on, CareSight is a great creative platform for Kenny’s entrepreneurial and technical passions.

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