One of the biggest decisions health IT leaders make is choosing to partner with vendors who can meet their needs within the financially agreed-upon terms of the original contract. There are several quality vendors who explain the terms of their services and products in plain, black-and-white language that is easily understandable and free of terminology that can be misinterpreted or discovered only in the fine print of a contract.
There are other vendors who relish in “the catch” of the sales process, rather in the value that their products are able to provide customers. These vendors’ tactics include allowing their sales team to promise turnkey solutions that may exceed the financial terms that were presented during the sales presentation and even in the final contract.
This latter scenario is what 25-bed Girard Medical Center, located in the southeastern corner of Kansas, claims happened to them when they entered into agreement with a major EMR vendor. Rather than pony up additional funds the vendor said were necessary prior to implementing the promised EMR system, Girard Medical Center is taking their case to the courthouse. The lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court, claims the EMR vendor failed to complete their work for the agreed-upon price. According to a post in the Wall Street Journal , Girard Medical Center paid more than $1.2 million, yet still has no installed or functional Electronic Medical Record (EMR), as defined in Defining Key Health Information Technology Terms (The National Alliance for Health Information Technology, April 28, 2008): An electronic record of health-related information on an individual that can be... system. The case is currently in court-ordered arbitration, according to the article.
There are several steps health IT departments can take to ensure they are partnering with a vendor who has their customers' success as top priority. In a recent article published by Healthcare IT News, titled "6 must-haves for effective customer support in health IT ," Sonal Patel, VP of Client Services at Corepoint Health, and Cathy Wickern, former systems analyst at Highline Medical Center, offered the following key components of health IT vendors dedicated to providing top-notch service:
1. A knowledgeable support team.
"These requirements apply to the front line, as well as throughout the entire technical, escalation team," Patel said. "In today's competitive market with a large number of available jobs, finding qualified candidates is difficult, to say the least, especially for the skill-sets needed."
"After the initial response to the request, the support team should stay in regular contact with the client until the problem is resolved to the customer's satisfaction, without exception," Patel said.
She also suggests using a vendor's support services, calling existing customers, and reading customer feedback provided in reports, such as in KLAS research.
3. The ability to listen and understand.
To understand the profession, the market, and customers, health IT vendors need to "walk in the customers' shoes," said Patel, and look at any situation from their perspective. "Take the time to listen to their feedback because the customers are the ones using the products and services," she said. Smart vendors, she added, regularly gain insight from customers, which they can use to improve services and products in the form of upgrades of enhancements
4. Being an extension of the IT team.
"There are times when I need to know how to perform actions that are specific to that particular product," Wickern said. "Good customer support makes me feel like I'm more than just one person working on a project – it should be like another layer of IT support for me, while I work as IT support for our staff."
5. Helping during emergencies.
"Knowing that someone is going to record the information about the problem correctly, and be able to troubleshoot and fix what happened as quickly as possible, offers reassurance," Wickern said. "And if a particular representative doesn't know the immediate answer, they should have quick access to someone who knows how to help."
6. Offering peace of mind during major projects.
"The best vendors evaluate our process in advance, show us how their systems work, then they brainstorm with our team how the new system will work alongside our current system," she said. "Good customer service isn't just listening; it's also offering suggestions and expertise on how to use the new system."
Further Reading: What is Your EHR Connectivity Strategy?