How to Evaluate a Clinical Analytics Vendor: A Checklist

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Clinical Analytics Vendor ChecklistThe clinical analytics market is a crowded and chaotic one, with many vendors lining up to claim they can help providers use their data to improve care and lower costs.  Making a wrong decision at this time in the market will paint you into a decision corner that could last four to five years, at least, while the market rapidly moves past your organization towards accountable care and quality-based payment models.  You cannot afford the time to recover from a bad decision.  So how do you cut through the noise to find a solution that makes the most sense for your organization?

This paper is designed to help you with that decision. In it, I:

  • outline general criteria to help you assess a clinical analytics vendor;
  • discuss the technology and change management an effective analytics solution should support; and
  • introduce a Healthcare Analytics Adoption Model that will help you analyze vendors and evaluate your own plans for analytics adoption.

General Criteria for Assessing a Clinical Analytics Company

Embarking on an assessment with the knowledge of key, general criteria can help you determine whether a vendor has the philosophy, experience and viability that can lead to a successful outcome for your organization. By evaluating vendors according to the following, you can narrow down the list considerably.

1.              Completeness of Vision

What lessons does the vendor bring from the past healthcare analytics market and how have they adjusted their current strategy and products accordingly?  Can they bring lessons from other industries that are more advanced in their adoption of analytics? What is the vendor’s understanding of the present market and industry requirements? What is the vendor’s vision of the future for clinical analytics? Look for vendors who can clearly outline how they have evolved to meet — and anticipate — industry needs.

2.              Culture and Values of Senior Leadership

It’s no cliché, but rather the precise truth: the overall culture of a company starts at the top.  Get to know the senior leadership of the vendors you are evaluating.  Insist on meeting several members of their executive team.  Simply put, do the culture and values of a vendor’s senior leadership align with yours? When interacting with individual members of the vendor’s team, ask yourself, “Would I be excited to hire this person into our company?”  If the answer is consistently “no,” find another vendor. More than technology is required to leverage clinical analytics to drive real, sustainable change. Cultural transformation will be required throughout your organization. If your culture and values don’t mesh with that of your vendor, you will encounter significant roadblocks to success.

3.              Ability to Execute

Does this vendor have a track record for delivering value and satisfaction to their clients? What do KLAS, Gartner, Chilmark, and the Advisory Board have to say about this vendor? Find at least three, preferably five, referenced accounts.  Do not accept referenced accounts that are pre-screened and selected by the vendor — every client of the vendor should be open to serve as a reference.  Do the vendors you are considering have solid referenced accounts that are similar in size and demographics to your own company? Ask these references very simply: How satisfied are you with the vendor’s products, services, and overall value? Would you hire them again?

4.              Technology Adaptability and Supportability

The reality is, in today’s connected world, all businesses, including healthcare, move at the speed that their software can adapt – either fast or slow – to new processes and business models.  Therefore, the underlying engineering and architecture of that software is critically important.  You must peel back the covers of the vendor’s products and evaluate their software engineering for modern design patterns like object-oriented programming, service-oriented architectures, loose coupling, late binding, and balanced granularity of software services.  Glossing over this assessment is akin to buying a multimillion dollar office building without assessing the modularity of the walls and soundness of the foundation, plumbing and electrical systems. How fast can the system adapt to the market and your unique needs for differentiation? Data standards, vocabularies and clinical analytics use cases are changing rapidly in the healthcare industry, literally everyday, with no signs of slowing down. Find a vendor whose software engineering can keep up.  Analytic agility is critical.  Executives in your organization can’t wait weeks and months anymore for a new report to inform a critical decision. The industry is changing too fast.

5.              Total Cost of Ownership

The best solution in the world is of no value if it’s not affordable.  To assess affordability, you must

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