Saturday, December 10, 2011

Buying a Clinical Information Technology System

Buying a clinical information technology system challenges every organization's senior management team. Unlike other administrative applications that help manage a facility, the clinical information technology system touches directly the lives of patients and the work flow of physicians, nurses, and other clinicians. Careers and entire organizations can be ruined by poor vendor choices and botched implementations (e.g., installation of the software and hardware) and deployments (e.g., introduction of applications to end users). Poorly chosen clinical information technology systems can drive physicians to competitor institutions, impact facility accreditation, and in some cases invite litigation due to unexpected morbidity or mortality.

As frightening as this task is, the best way to be successful is to be humble. Senior executives must accept the fact that full investigation of the features and functionality of clinical information technology systems before purchase is impossible. No individual or committee has the technical expertise and available time to effectively evaluate and fully review the capabilities of a comprehensive clinical information technology system. Therefore, organizations must base their decision to purchase systems on factors that function as surrogates for the usefulness and appropriateness of the systems in its institutions. These may include such items as the source of clinical content included with the system, list of organizations using the system, and perceived ease of use of the application.

Evaluate Live Systems

Although information technology vendors utilize demonstrations of their software to educate clients about their products, viewing working systems deployed in patient care areas offers the most valuable information. Unfortunately for both vendors and purchasers, the competitiveness of the healthcare information technology marketplace, couple with the complexity of these systems, encourages vendors to showcase software products during demonstrations that are either partially completed or are in beta version.

Therefore, often what is seen in these demonstrations does not accurately represent the features and functionality currently available. It is important to take vendors at their word when they declare that the demonstrated software is representative of features and functionality under development.