Community hospitals traditionally operate in many under-served areas. They are often the oasis for patients that otherwise would have to travel long distances to receive quality care. However, these hospitals are now challenged to provide quality patient care with limited access to the most current Health Information System (HIS) applications.
Their legacy systems are reaching its Life Cycle and Community Hospitals cannot afford the high price tags associated with most of the large HIS vendors. As well as the associated cost of implementation and local support. So if you’re at a community hospital how do you mitigate some of these costs? Here are five areas of focus:
Partnerships: Some vendors offer the opportunity to outsource your IT support and move your data center to the cloud. Strictly from a cost mitigation strategy, this is a very attractive proposition since it addresses two primary concerns; 1) Retention of technical staff in a rural or remote areas. 2) Cost of server maintenance, server support, data center operation, and disaster recovery capabilities. Other partner relationships to consider are revenue cycle vendors that outsource your billing department and provide clinical and financial applications/support for a percentage of the revenue. Lastly, you can also consider partnering with a local Medical Center that would offer an extension of their current HIS platform, i.e. community connect.
Data center footprint: Outside of application support, your data center is responsible for a large portion of your IT budget. Network conductivity, and hardware costs has enabled cloud-based solutions to be affordable and reliable. Server virtualization, security and firewall protection, uninterruptible power supply, backups, disaster recovery and patch management are all issues that a typical data center has to stay abreast with. These all have become large technology challenges for the average community hospital. There are now many cloud-based hosting solutions outside of HIS vendors that a typical hospital can take advantage of. There may be local technology companies already providing the services to other industries that may be able to accommodate the number of racks needed to house all the hospital IT needs.
RFP process and negotiation: A typical hospital spends more time negotiating payer contracts than they do for IT related needs. If you are embarking on a health information system replacement, the process needs to include a requirements document. This document is generated by canvassing your staff and aligning your strategic vision and principles with your operational processes. This requirements document will be the foundation for your RFP and will help drive the process of outlining all the features that the application will be required to have. Don’t be afraid to cast a wide net and include some of the larger vendors.
Strategy: While you’re evaluating systems it will be important to note which ones have a population health capability woven into his application, and what sales person keeps saying, “It’s a separate module.” You may also need to determine whether or not you are able to purchase a single solution for your acute care and ambulatory, or if you may need to purchase separate solutions. There are many pros and cons for each, but in the big scheme of things even some single-branded HIS solutions are interfaced in the background.
In the end you will be able to present options consistent with the budget requirements of your community hospital and align it with the strategic vision of providing quality care to your patient population.