Putting our internal plans in place for 2018 got me thinking about what is on the minds of prospective Clinical Communication and Collaboration clients for the year ahead. So, I asked the following question on a recent prospective client visit: “Since you’re planning for a CC&C project in 2018, what’s keeping you awake at night thinking about this endeavor?” The answer I received really made me pause.

The Answer:

Without hesitation, this hospital executive replied, “This CC&C project is a big expense for us when you add in the smartphones, infrastructure improvements and software required for an enterprise deployment. How am I going to preserve this investment and insure that it isn’t a sunk cost? In other words, how am I going to future-proof this technology?”

On the flight home, I decided to develop a checklist of “Questions to Ask” to the different vendors, so that prior to spending precious capital on a CC&C project, you have done your due diligence and can make an informed decision.

Below is Ron’s Guide to “Look Before You Leap” in the CC&C market.

How successful have the vendor’s pilot projects been to date?

There are few things more disruptive than a pilot project in your facility that goes nowhere. It’s not just the dollars involved in the project, but the time taken from your people, likely your facility’s most precious resource. You don’t want to be heading down a path to a dead end, so check out how many of a vendor’s pilot projects have “died on the vine” and never moved to deployment. A high rate of stalled or cancelled projects is a red flag.

Is the architecture open? Is there a full-featured API set available?

The history of healthcare IT is closed, silo-ed systems where getting access to your own data is next to impossible. Check out the recent quote from the CEO of Fairview Health Services and what he has to say about this challenge. You will need access to the CC&C system in order to add other applications, both current and future, written by both third parties and maybe your own development team. Think about the potential applications, and their value, that you can add onto the smartphones once they are deployed throughout your enterprise. If that capability is not available in the CC&C system that you’ve selected, then you are out of luck.

Does the smartphone application “play well with others”?

Keep in mind that the enterprise usage of smartphones lags well behind consumer usage. Your clinicians are already comfortable with using multiple apps on their personal devices. They expect you to provide them with the best-in-class clinical applications for their use and they are already comfortable moving from app-to-app to get things done. Your CC&C software must have this capability to work seamlessly with other apps. Single sign-on between apps while retaining the patient context (i.e., not having to look up the patient when moving to another app) is a must-have.

Are you able to customize the CC&C software?

I recently learned that one of the vendors in the CC&C market charges up to $100,000 in “services” for any customization request. Most clients don’t factor in that level of future expense when purchasing a system and are shocked as these future bills begin to arrive whenever they need a change made. Look for a CC&C system that allows you to customize how the software looks, feels and behaves for your end-users. To be specific, look for:

  • The ability to modify the UX/UI to add and subtract functionality on a hospital and user role basis. Not every clinician needs to see every available option.
  • The ability for your staff to add in other applications and launch them from your CC&C software. Your needs are going to change over time and if your internal team can make these modifications without requiring vendor involvement, you will save a lot of future dollars.

What do the vendor’s financials looks like?

One of the knocks on the CC&C market is that many vendors have received (and burnt through) large amounts of investment in order to build their product and their company. Investors are beginning to “wise up” and are reticent to dump additional dollars to chase a return. What this means for a hospital is that you want to make sure that a vendor has the financial staying power to still be in business five years out when you still really need them. Consider the challenge you would face if suddenly your CC&C vendor was no longer viable. To protect this from happening, ask to see their financials before you purchase and make an assessment of their potential longevity.

To formalize all of the above, you can even turn these questions into a “scorecard” and grade the answers. Once you have the results, you will be much more knowledgeable about the future of your CC&C project. Give it a try and see if you can Future-Proof your investment in 2018.