April 2010

Key Considerations while Replacing your Current IT Solution : Tushar Ratanghayra, Senior Consultant, 21st Century Healthcare Management Solution Pvt Ltd

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The objective of this article is to give the right direction to all healthcare organisations to choose the best IT solution.


IT is the necessity of the day. Organisations running on efficiently managed IT solutions benefit by improved control over exceptions, efficient processes, higher efficiency of staff and policy driven systems.However, it is crucial for them to have adequate knowledge about the right IT solution that can benefit their organisation, the right vendor to engage with and the most accurate way of implementing it. Solution providers are mushrooming in every corner of the country and not all organisations benefit from IT.

I am sure everyone goes through similar issues which, most organizations face while deciding upon a new software solution. Also, organisations which have implemented LIS/RIS/HIS have been in this dilemma in the past. In such situations users generally give up expecting an ideal solution as very few organisations have a CIO / CTO to take this challenge. The objective of this article, hence, is to give the right direction to all healthcare organisations to choose the best IT solution.

It is important to have a good software, but other equally important factors include efficient training process, users’ expectation management and adopting SOPs, among other factors, which have more to do with management of operational issues rather than core software issues. Thus, while selecting a new IT solution vendor, it is imperative to not choose freelancer software programmers or a software company that does not have adequate knowledge of the helthcare sector because they either fail to understand the user’s requirement or spend too much time understanding them that causes unneccessary delays.

Adopting a structured selection process with involvement of key members from all related functional areas would help in identifying the actual requirement, the right vendor and the best way to make the solution successful.

Need Analysis
Selection Process
List, Categorise & Prioritise

Each user department must first list expectations from new software, reports, alerts and alarms required, features expected and issues faced due to inadequate/non availability of information from other departments. If some IT solution already exists then one also needs to list the software and non software issues and the good features available in the existing software, which are expected in the new software.

Consult the Prospective Vendor

Search for the IT solution provider from your network or make a Google search and select a few software product companies. Check the credentials of these companies and request them to provide product details with exact features functionalities available. Shortlist some companies on the basis of this search.

Confirm Expectations are Met

During this process each user department first needs to confirm that their requirements are met. Most of the expectations are fulfilled by matching their lists with features and functionalities of various products under consideration.

Consider Financing Options

If initial budget is an issue, one can request the vendor for options like SAAS (Software as a service), packaged offer along with server and system software which can help reduce investments and derive benefits with minimal initial outlay.

Team Building
Team Selection – Cross Functional

Since ownership is the key to success, select a team from each major function in the organisation which should be responsible right from selection process till the successful implementation.

Define  Responsibility
Beginning with general team responsibility, specific responsibility of each team member needs to be documented and formally adhered to.

Communication Plan

Lack of communication or inadequate communication can be disastrous leading to failure either in selection or implementation. And as part of the communication plan, one also needs to identify how issues would be resolved.

Vendor & Product Selection
Software Product

The provider needs to have a ready product build on latest technologies which is implemented in some places. One also needs to visit the place where the same product is running successfully before deciding.

Product Company

Many software companies or freelancers take up software development and develop the IT solution as per  the user’s need. Whereas on the other hand there are many software product companies which have a ready to implement product and focus on serving the healthcare segment only. One should preferably deal with such product companies only.

Future Support

The vendor should be in a position to provide online support with adequate use of technology and a knowledgeable support team.

Escrow
The source code of the software is the IPR of the vendor, thus he will not part with the same in normal situation. However, in case the vendor looses interest in the product or closes down the business, then he needs to hand over the source code which will help is resolving future issues.

Training
Training Plan

When implementation starts, there should be a clear day-wise plan with intermittent milestones. The plan should be made by members of the vendor’s team and confirmed by all concerned team members. This also needs to be reviewed regularly.

Importance of Master Data

Master data is the one time initial setup information, which needs to be created with utmost care, as this comprises of setting up of business policies and creating re-usable information of system entities. This should be one of the prime responsibilities of the team.

Target Early Wins

Rather than going big bang and going live in all areas, one should consider to start implementing in areas, which will give faster results and will be showcase-able to all stakeholders. This brings confidence and motivation for the entire team.

Certification

After training is completed, it is very important to confirm that all users are adequately trained on using the new software. The best way to confirm this would be formal certification of all users before going live. This certification should be based on theory questions and practical sessions, which are observed by a team of assessors.

Final Preparation & Go Live

After confirmation of successful training, one needs to plan the data required for going live, communicate the long term benefits and initial challenges that could be faced and the support required for going live. Then Go Live on the software as planned.

Review
Confirm- Objective Met

After a few weeks of implementation one should review whether the basic objective of implementing is achieved and decide the future course of action as per the feedback.

Benefits from New Solution
One should also measure the benefits to the patient, the users and the management as these benefits help to justify the investments and guide the team for further improvement to be planned for future.

Regular Review Plan

Finally, the process does not end here. In order to maintain the benefits achieved and ensure continued trust in the software, the selected team needs to conduct monthly/quarterly reviews both internally as well as with the vendor and continue the good job. 

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