Is It Time To Divorce Your HIT Vendor?

Posted on May 2, 2017 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

Few organizations are totally satisfied with their technology vendors. Even if they’re doing their best, their relationship with you can be disrupted by issues like staff turnover, changes in the product roadmap or an acquisition. Depending on how well your partnership worked in the first place – and how dependent you are on their technology – you may choose to ride out such issues.

But there are times that you have to make some hard decisions about your future with a vendor, particularly if their overall strategy diverges from yours. If you’re wondering how to sort out whether you need to part ways, you might want to consider some suggestions from Dick Taylor, MD, executive vice president with healthcare IT consulting firm MedSys Group. Dr. Taylor’s “Signs Your Vendor’s Not That Into You” include:

  • The new upgrade comes with sticker shock: If the new software calls for a costly “forklift upgrade,” and all told will create a lot of expense and issues, be concerned.
  • Their technology is very dated: If the vendor hasn’t adopted current technologies like virtualization, web services and the cloud – or at least considered whether they’re appropriate for customer needs — it’s a bad sign. Remember that part of your maintenance fees should go to long-term planning by the vendor that incorporates emerging tech as needed.
  • They haven’t stayed in touch post-sale: Expect for not only sales people to touch base, but also experts from R&D, support engineering and implementation to check in and ask about your needs and concerns. If they don’t, maybe they just see you as a revenue stream.
  • Their engineering staff has been gutted: Some vendors reduce their engineering roster, particularly if they’ve acquired the product in question, seemingly in the belief that their source code will maintain itself. This will not end well.
  • They don’t have customers like you on board anymore: You don’t want to be part of a dying customer base. In fact, you want to make sure other customers like you – such as, say, other large health systems – are still part of the mix. Otherwise, it’s unlikely developers will address your specific interests.
  • They’ve lost their focus: Given the rapid pace at which new healthcare technologies emerge, it’s easy for vendors to get distracted. Of course, it’s all well and good that they’re aware of cutting-edge technologies. That being said, make sure they don’t plan to rush in a new direction and ignore your needs.

Other vendor warning signs that came to mind for me included:

  • They don’t respond promptly to service requests
  • The people who interact with you are rude or poorly trained
  • Their new contract has hidden “gotchas” in it that they won’t consider addressing
  • The product can no longer do the job for which you acquired it, and they don’t seem capable of fixing it to your satisfaction

In some ways, important vendor relationship are like marriages in that every situation is different and that some give and take is involved. But if your relationship isn’t working, or undermining your plans, you’ve probably reached the end of the road.