Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Checking Your Vendors’ References: Don’t Cut Corners

When your medical practice is considering a major purchase, don't be confined by the vendors reference list alone. You should also use these two proven strategies for expanding the reference list beyond the vendor’s control:
selecting a medical practice vendor
  • Ask around. Use your personal network to discover other practices that use a given vendor’s services or products. Call other physicians or managers. Ask around at your next conference or seminar. Ask, “Do you know anyone who has used XYZ Product? Do you know if they’ve had a positive experience? Have they dropped that vendor or product?” Ask your personal friends and acquaintances to help you contact the ones you don’t already know.
  • Ask the competition. As you narrow your field of vendors, ask each for specific references that include clients they’ve won over from the others. For example, if you’re shopping for a new EMR, ask Vendor 1 if his or her company has a client that used to be with Vendor 2, and vice versa. When you contact that reference, ask specific questions about why he or she left the previous service-provider. This way you can hear some of the “bad news” about each vendor.
Make the Most of Your Reference Calls

Press your vendors to provide relevant references. Insist on a list of medical practices that resemble your own in size, medical specialty, payer mix and patient volumes. If you’re looking at technology to deploy over multiple practice sites, talk to a multi-site practice using the same technology.

Pay attention to subtle differences, too. For example your 55-year-old physicians may not agree with a reference’s thirty-something doctors regarding a high-tech product’s “user-friendliness.” Ask about market conditions, patient types and local competitors. Do your best to achieve an “apples-to-apples” comparison.

Depending on the product or service you’re reviewing, try to speak with more than one person at each practice. Remember that physicians and managers often have a very different view about a product or service than the workers in the trenches. A less-than-optimum configuration looks like a minor annoyance to an administrator, but it can become a major pain for the staffer who deals with it day in and day out.

Don’t settle for written references—while somewhat useful, they don’t compare to personal interviews. Telephone calls are better, but don’t implement systems or equipment without making at least one site visit arranged by each of your vendor-finalists. Nothing compares to seeing the product in a real-world setting and talking to the people with daily experience.