It’s time to ‘refresh’ the healthcare provider-vendor relationship to ensure ongoing innovation

It didn’t take long for COVID-19 to highlight some glaring issues in health information technology. Like most businesses globally, healthcare organizations were largely unprepared.

We weren’t adequately prepared to move workforces home; quickly shift to virtual care, and appropriately communicate with patients, families, care teams, and so many others who help deliver the services we provide. We did the best we could, though. We quickly cobbled together solutions and together made them work.

Less-than-ideal workarounds are nothing new to the health IT world. Healthcare’s mission is to help people—and increasingly, to help lower costs for those we serve. Low healthcare margins dictate comparatively smaller technology budgets. So although most healthcare organizations have EHRs, we are still trying to solve big problems like unified communication and consumer engagement without the comprehensive solutions we really need. Many times, we lack the true collaboration necessary to solve our urgent challenges.

The truth is, great solutions are coming to healthcare at an astounding pace. It’s hard to keep track of all the new technologies and companies. Even if they have not always lived up to their promises, health IT advances over the past two decades have been amazing. 

Ever since the adoption of President Barack Obama’s HITECH Act initiatives as part of the stimulus package during the Great Recession, health IT implementation and use have improved considerably. A sort of map guiding the implementation journey has been developed. Although COVID-19 created an abrupt detour, it also seems to have accelerated the pace of health IT, especially in the areas of telehealth, artificial intelligence and patient experience. 

New health IT solutions may not always be perfect, but they are well on the way to being darn good. Something we healthcare professionals can do is to extend ourselves and to get our hands dirty helping the vendors of these tech solutions get to the finish line. Healthcare is a team sport, and we all need to play together to get the win.

As leaders in health organizations nationwide, we are the best source of feedback. Many times, our real-world experience can help refine health IT products to achieve the value that our organizations—and those we serve—deserve. 

There are many ways to bring your voice and ideas to vendors across the industry. I suggest a few to get started:

  • Join vendor advisory boards. I have served and continue to serve on several advisory boards. One, for example, focuses on an integrated AI, patient/provider engagement, and telehealth platform. Although the company has an impressive technology set, it lacked provider health system insight. Sharing my knowledge about how to improve patient communication tools for hospitals and health systems can help it become a more valued industry partner. I have found vendor advisory boards are a great way to give feedback, and I learn a tremendous amount as well—a win-win.
  • Participate in software beta testing. Offering to beta-test features is another way to add your voice to your current vendors’ development process. Obviously, not every organization is equipped for beta-testing, but our partners need those that can and will. This can really expedite getting value from our technology.
  • Get involved with federal and local government organizations. Go to events or apply for committees. Give your feedback on regulatory calls for comments. 
  • Become a member of leading industry organizations. I have participated in events sponsored by associations representing medical groups, healthcare information and management executives, payers, and physician groups. Once you have joined these organizations, get involved in committees. Look for opportunities to network or to talk about important industry topics.

To be nimble and prepared for whatever new challenges come our way, we will need to collaborate with our vendor partners like never before. Our input can help us get better solutions and lower our overall technology costs. The result will be better partnerships, improved care outcomes, greater pricing transparency and options, and enhanced security and integration. We need these things now more than ever. 

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