What Should You Look for in a Healthcare IT Consulting Firm?
In the last few decades, an increasing number of hospitals have sought to keep up with the technology boom by outsourcing their IT to third-party consulting firms. In 2020, that trend has risen exponentially as hospitals scramble to deal with the Covid-19 Pandemic. Outsourcing healthcare IT consulting allows hospitals to focus on providing care to their communities, promoting better IT health, and letting outside experts take care of the details.
It’s not always easy to find a good IT partner. Information Technology is a constantly evolving field, and it can be difficult for hospitals to stay up to date on what exactly to be looking for in IT services. It is a big field and a hospital’s requirements can be specific, but good healthcare consulting partner will be able to meet a diverse array of needs. Find a partner that can guide hospital systems both in the crisis of the moment and also into the future. A good prospective consultant will have in-depth knowledge about the healthcare industry, revenue cycle, and medical practice. They will be able to plan effectively and use new and emerging technology and applications to help a hospital run smoothly, creating better workflow solutions and leveraging software to create better patient care.
Though it’s challenging to find the right partner, the results are worth it. Outsourcing can help solve some of the most difficult workflow and revenue cycle problems a hospital has. If you’re thinking about bringing on an IT consulting firm, consider these five criteria:
1: Relevant expertise:
Experience is critical in a potential IT consultant. Approach a partnership like a job interview. Ask the big questions about what kind of hospitals they’ve partnered with before, what projects have they worked on, and what their reputation is within the industry. Focus on the meta and the micro, big-picture analytics and the individual patient. As a company, what is their vision and how can that help your hospital? What is their particular expertise? Do they have referrals? Get to know how they are viewed both internally and externally.
But don’t lose sight of the details as well. Get as much information about the team that would be supporting your hospital as you can. What does the partnership look like? How does communication work? What experiences does each individual team member have? What kind of innovative solutions have they developed? Work to create a fusion of their team and your team and get them all on board, working for the same mission.
2: Communication, and ease of access:
Communication is at the core of every healthy relationship. It’s no different when choosing a healthcare IT consulting firm. Communication needs to be a two-way street. Your partner should be letting you know about the work they are doing, but they should also be ready and willing to listen. An IT provider should listen to your needs first, and then construct solutions based on your particular issues, instead of just applying broad industry-wide solutions to your healthcare company. From your very first prospecting meeting with them, they should be listening to you well and offering customized advice.
Communication should also extend to team members and stakeholders in a regularly scheduled manner. In a partnership, getting into the rhythms of communication can take some work and time, but it helps get ahead of any surprises. Good communication can be the difference between a successful partnership, and a disaster.
3: Flexible response and innovative solutions
Having good experience is a must, but don’t choose a consulting partner that only uses ready-made solutions. When you’re sitting down with an IT firm ask questions about their analysis process. How do their teams work on projects and integrate with existing hospital staff, systems, and even long term goals. The firm’s response and solutions should be custom made to fit your hospital, not just a cookie cutter fix.
No two hospital systems are the same. Every unique problem demands a unique solution. A good healthcare IT consulting firm will use a flexible project management approach to ensure proper project implementation. This means having custom, day-by-day little deliverables that slowly stack up to meet your big picture goals.
4: Alignment with your mission and vision:
All of those steps are important, but they won’t matter unless you find an IT consulting firm that aligns with your mission. Your IT firm needs to integrate with your hospital. Even as a third-party they need to fight for your hospital, believe in your hospital, think like your hospital. When you interview a potential IT partner, clearly explain your vision and role within the community. Pay careful attention to how they speak your language and are familiar with your terminology. Ambiguity upfront about the mission will lead to headaches down the road.
On a similar note, clearly define the scope of their role within your healthcare system. Know ahead of time exactly what you need them for. Too large a scope will make them ineffective, and too narrow will constrict their aid. As partners, your collective goal should be betting patient care with information technology.
5: Practicing strong core values:
It’s important to find an IT Consultant to be a partner, not just a provider. This starts with the leadership, culture, and vision that match your hospital. A provider is someone who can deliver good service, but a partner seeks to achieve your vision, and will proactively help solve your problems and use IT to advance its impact. A partner like this is always on the lookout for emerging solutions and new ways to better user-experience and hospital performance.
What they say in interviews with you is important, but check how their actions back up their words. Look out for warning signs like
Canceling previously scheduled meetings
Lack of accountability with prior clients
No credentials and information about current team
Don’t offer training and updates throughout the whole relationship and lifecycle of a project.
If you follow these guidelines, you should find a healthcare IT consulting partner who can develop a comprehensive strategy to help your hospital. Make sure that they have proven experience in all areas, and check out their case studies on past and even current projects to check how they consistently demonstrate a holistic, growth-focused approach that matches itself with your healthcare organization’s mission and vision. Remember, the best IT firms are able to integrate themselves flexibly into any healthcare situation.