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Technology adoption: Best-of-breed or bust

May 7, 2012
by Mark Woodka
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Business initiatives on the top of executive agendas for today’s long-term care providers are those that emphasize efficiencies, cost control, revenue and care. Technology plays an increasingly important role, accelerating the path to success and automating critical processes and tasks to get to the ultimate goal of delivering highest quality care at lowest possible costs.

With so many technologies flooding the healthcare industry, prioritizing can be difficult. Implementing a broad suite from a single vendor generally means you gain strong products in some areas, but weaker products in others. That’s why a best-of-breed approach to selecting technology products is so critical. Only best-of-breed products provide the depth, breadth and strength of capabilities that match your specific needs. With best-of-breed, you adopt products from multiple vendors in order to gain the exact functionality and value that your organization requires. Best-of-breed products are not only powerful in capabilities, but can be more cost effective than the suite approach. 

THE ROLE OF STANDARDS

With the introduction of multiple products comes the necessity to integrate solutions. Gaining the ability for your technologies to interoperate with one another will accelerate the path to your organizational goals. Your integration strategy needs to be well thought-out, incorporating relevant technology standards and considering important aspects like data exchange—especially as LTC providers take steps toward more collaboration along the continuum of care.

Over the past several years, standards like web services have evolved, offering flexibility, reliability and power to product integrations. In the past, a change in one application could cause a ripple effect by breaking other applications that are connected to it. With web services-based integrations, change is insulated so applications connected with one another remain intact. In addition, a myriad of industry standards exists for sharing data, managing processes, implementing healthcare protocols, and more. Be sure the new products you adopt support the standards that are critical to the success of your best-of-breed strategy.

DEVELOP A CHECKLIST

Whether you are considering revenue lifecycle management, workforce management, EMR/EHR or point-of-care technologies, evaluate each specific product with a careful eye that focuses on integration. Be sure to ask each vendor about interoperability, so you can easily connect solutions in your environment. Be prepared and do your homework. Develop a checklist of what to look for in evaluating vendors. Consider the following questions to ensure the vendor delivers on what it promises and that the integrations are built with the automation and benefits you’re looking for:

  • Which product integrations are available today? Which integrations will be available in the future and what is the timeframe?
  • Are the integrations standards-based? Was the product built to standards? If so, which ones?
  • Can the vendor demonstrate the integrations that are important to you? For example, if you want to connect payroll to punch clocks, can you see how that connection actually works?
  • What information is being shared? What data is being exchanged from which product? How is the information shared and how often does the exchange occur?
  • Do the vendors you are integrating have a relationship? Are they partners?

TAKE IT FOR A DRIVE

Consider doing a test drive of the products you are evaluating. One way to do this is through a controlled pilot, under an established timeframe, with management support, and with clearly defined objectives. Thorough customer references and on-site visits can be another avenue for your test drive. Be sure to go one-on-one with vendor references who are specifically integrating with the technologies that are in your organization as well. And, look out for any gotchas. If a vendor claims they integrate with products that compete with their own, raise a red flag. Uncover the facts and try before you buy.

LTC providers are facing a new reality that emphasizes cost control and quality care. With a well-formed technology strategy, your chances of success increase dramatically, especially with collaborative healthcare models that hinge on information exchange across boundaries. Make the most of your investments with a plan that emphasizes the best: best-of-breed solutions coupled with comprehensive integrations that seamlessly tie together the technologies you value across your organization.

Mark Woodka is CEO of OnShift, a web-based staff scheduling and shift management software company for long-term care and senior living. In this role, he works closely with healthcare providers on strategic staffing initiatives to increase efficiencies while improving resident care. Mark has been a frequent speaker and author on technology-enabled process improvements and has authored articles on long-term care trends and issues.  Contact him at mwoodka@onshift.com.

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