How to do it... Evaluating and choosing IT

1. Smart purchases and successful implementations begin with a roadmap. 

The first step is an evaluation plan that provides a purchaser control of the technology review, according to Jennifer Marso, vice president of strategic communications for Ability. The plan includes internal reviews with staff, product reviews and interdepartmental buy-in.

“It's important to define requirements and establish a process for how you will evaluate potential vendors and solutions,” adds Janine Savage, RN, RAC-CT, CHC, vice president of product management at PointRight Inc.

For software purchases, Savage recommends “a robust selection methodology that includes an initial solution screening process” that narrows the field to no more than three vendors. 

2. Know the life expectancy of any technology. One  consideration is whether the vendor has a strong capability in managing its product lifecycle so that the product or technology doesn't quickly become obsolete, Marso adds.

3. Many providers can be stymied about product research, but the evaluation process should help point the way.

The best sources of information are references from other post-acute facilities, as well as live, hands-on evaluation, says Teresa Chase, president of American HealthTech.

“I can't over-emphasize the difference between a vendor's spec sheet and how the software actually functions,” Chase says.

Annual software buyer's guides from industry publications such as McKnight's Long-Term Care News can be helpful, adds Savage. She also noted the “excellent online technology selection tools” provided by LeadingAge CAST. 

4. Avoid making decisions in a vacuum.

John Ederer, NHA, president of American Data, believes too many software decisions are shaped solely by compliance and reimbursement consideration and instead, should be based on caregivers — “not IT, not other providers nor billing.”

Stakeholders “must include the potential end-users of the software,” adds Chase. “Choose technologically savvy people ... both to help in the evaluation and serve as evangelists during onboarding and implementation.”

5. For major IT investments, providers should remember they are not investing only in capital equipment, but the company behind it as well. As Marso points out, “Another question a new software buyer should ask is: Can they grow with me?” That would go far in ensuring the vendor partner sticks around to solve problems “down the road,” she adds.

“Everyone has heard the saying that you don't marry just a person, you also marry their entire family. The same is true of technology,” Chase says. 

Have an exit strategy if a partner leaves the market, Savage advises.

Providers may want vendors unique to the long-term care space. Charlie Mintz, director of business development for CareServ Technologies LLC, believes such firms better “understand the complexities of the business.”

6. Be patient.

“Buyers need to fully understand the investment of time and resources needed to get this new software up and running,” Marso says. 

7. Newcomers to IT planning invariably learn the importance of integration.

Mintz believes mobile devices make that possible: “A properly configured smartphone can do it all.”

To ease the process, look for solutions that are less stressful.

“With changes in technology, a great business partner will have software that is easy to implement and minimally invasive for IT,” observes Marso.