If someone asked you what the biggest obstacles to buying medical software were, what would you tell them? Would you say that sorting out what features you want it to have is the biggest? Or figuring out how to transition from one system to the other? Or would you say that it’s getting the doctors in your practice to agree on a particular product?
All of these are factors you should consider when buying a new system. However, as it turns out, the two biggest challenges medical practices face when investing in medical software seem to be time and money. Finding the time to go through the buying process, deciding how much they could afford to spend and creating room in the budget were the challenges that rose to the top in recent research we did.
Over the last 18 months, we asked medical practices how they went about purchasing EMRs and practice management systems, including what problems they faced in going through the process. We asked them what features they wanted in new systems, what technologies were important to them, what frustrated them about their existing software and what obstacles they faced when selecting and paying for a new system.
As it turned out, the practices that we spoke with didn’t have much trouble figuring out what they wanted from EMRs and practice management software. Virtually everyone (92%) said they wanted their new systems to include billing options, and a decent majority prioritized charting (62%). They also wanted systems that could integrate with labs (55%), something that’s become increasingly important as a means of improving practice efficiency.
Our research also found that choosing a method for managing the software wasn’t exactly controversial. Two-thirds of practices we spoke with said they wanted to have a vendor host their EMR or practice management system, and access it online. Another 32% said they were willing to consider either online-only access or on-premise installation of the software.
When it came to replacing an existing system, practice leaders cited a lack of features (22%), inefficiency (20%) and a need for too much manual work as the most common reasons for wanting to upgrade their existing systems.
Given this level of clarity, one might guess that these practices wouldn’t find it too difficult to buy new medical software. As it turns out, though, they felt they didn’t have some key resources. Almost every respondent (91%) said they had trouble finding the time to research new systems, and 90% said they struggled to find the budget to pay for the new system.
How, then, do you stop worries over time and money from hampering your medical software search? Here are some ideas on how to address time concerns:
- Develop a detailed plan for researching and acquiring the product(s) you need. (If you’re not sure what’s involved, read our EMR Buying Cycle guide, which will walk you through the process)
- Create a team responsible for getting the bulk of the vendor research work done, including vetting shortlisted vendors, collecting feedback on those vendors before and after they present a demo and tracking vendor proposals
- Ask team members to develop a schedule for getting the research done, which should include deadlines for both individual subtasks and the entire process as a whole
- Have team members meet twice a month at first, and then weekly as the deadline grows nearer, to make sure everyone is sharing information efficiently and in a timely fashion
- During the process, the team should draft a memo (maximum length one page) updating the entire practice on the progress of the search on a regular basis. This avoids confusion, which can badly bog down the process
- If possible, set a deadline after which the window for vendor feedback is closed. This will encourage clinicians to prioritize sharing their impressions
Meanwhile, consider these criteria when developing an appropriate budget for medical software:
- Make sure you know what the software you have in mind will cost in today’s market. Comparing the cost of the new software to the systems you bought years ago won’t be workable, particularly if you’re looking at a different or enhanced set of features
- When establishing your medical software budget, consider ways in which the new software will save money (such as avoiding the costs of managing it on-site), as well as ways in which it stands to generate more income (such as increasing physician productivity or collections) in addition to what it will cost to purchase, maintain and upgrade the software
- Bear in mind that when you’re planning your budget, you should think of the software purchase price in terms of the expected life of the software. For example, if you think the software might be serviceable for just three years, and another competitor offers a more robust product for a similar price, bear this difference in mind
- As much as possible, compare apples to apples. Medical software created by different vendors come with different mixes of features, strengths and weaknesses. Factor in these differences when estimating what you’re willing to spend
Even if you bear these principles in mind, you may still find the medical software buying process to be a strain at times. In fact, it’s almost guaranteed, given how important this software will be to your business.