With uncertainty about the prospect of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the rising costs of providing healthcare in the US, the trend of hospital and health system consolidation will continue to mount in the coming years. A recent report in Becker’s Healthcare points to this continued consolidation and the outlook for the healthcare industry. As this pending M&A activity continues, healthcare systems and hospitals should avoid vendor dependency or lock-in as this could hamper their ability to consolidate technology solutions, operational applications, and other business systems.
The healthcare industry is also focusing their efforts on standardizing similar processes across their systems. More and more healthcare organizations are looking to standardize on systems across their enterprises, with a growing trend around policy management, to drive more consistency and operational efficiency. As such, healthcare systems may be interacting with several different policy management vendors who were previously working independently with individual hospitals within their integrated delivery system and now wish to consolidate to one policy management solution across the healthcare system.
This desire to standardize specific operational solutions across all their facilities is driven by the need to capitalize on operational efficiencies, increase staff productivity, reduce the time it takes to manage multiple vendors and leverage the economies of scale by negotiating with one vendor. What’s more, there are also instances where healthcare systems are transitioning from legacy products to other solutions that better meet their business needs and goals. However, during this migration process, they may encounter the unpleasant experience of vendor lock-in.
How Healthcare Systems Can Protect their Data and Mitigate Risk
Our own experience of collaborating with healthcare systems to standardize on one policy management solution has shed light on important questions healthcare systems should be asking their vendors as they consider implementing new systems or transitioning to others. The questions that should be asked are not always that transparent on a functional review of the market players. However, healthcare system decision makers should be asking questions that will mitigate the risk associated with the ownership of their data and how they will get it back if there they decide to change vendors. These processes are not always apparent in your contract termination clauses.
To help avoid vendor lock-in or difficulties in the transition of data should there be a need to make a change, make sure that you get clear answers not only on WHO owns the data but HOW it will be provided back to your organization should you need to move your data from one policy management solution to another. It’s important for you to find a vendor who understands that the data and policies stored in their solution are owned by you and should make sure that there are several different methodologies to allow you to retrieve the documents and accompanying metadata back in its original or desired format.
One Hospital’s Vendor Lock-in Experience
For example, we were recently working with a US based hospital who wanted to switch from a legacy policy management solution to PolicyMedical’s policy management solution and they were unpleasantly surprised to find that when they went to export their data, not only did the policies not get exported in the original format but the exported files also included the legacy policy management solution vendor’s logo and company attributions on the original documents. (i.e. An original Word document when exported came back as a PDF with the vendor’s logos splashed all over the document). As such this created additional administration burden on the hospital to convert the PDFs back to a Microsoft Word format and remove the vendor’s logo and company attributions. While there are new tools to help with this process, the customer was not aware of this until the time of conversion and therefore did not plan on the time and costs associated with this additional work.
You can never be too careful when it comes to protecting your data. Although some questions are not always obvious to ask, to avoid vendor lock-in and mitigate your risk, make sure you ask questions at the time of contract negotiations to ensure there are clauses included in your contract articulating HOW and WHEN you will get your data back.
Consolidation and standardization within healthcare will continue to increase over the coming years. At PolicyMedical we understand that our customers own their data and we take special care to make sure that should they need to extract their data from our SaaS-based policy management solution for whatever purposes, it is done in a way that is most efficient for them. Make sure this is the case with all vendors. Don’t let your data be held ransom – avoid vendor lock-in.