Why Healthcare Organizations Take So Long to Make Buying Decisions and How We Can Fix It (Part 4 of 4 - Process) (HIStalk)

(as seen in HIStalk Reader's Write on November 15, 2017)

We have previously discussed the impact of organizational misalignment and lack of trust on slowing the buying cycle in healthcare. Once you decide which projects are worth tackling and you streamline getting the scoop from your trusted network, now you must challenge and simplify the deeply-rooted, legacy workflow to make a decision.

Let’s illustrate two examples of antiquated steps in most every vendor selection process in healthcare and discuss potential solutions.

Meetings about Meetings

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For projects that require alignment and collaboration across many key stakeholders, unnecessary, unproductive meetings complicate and delay making a decision.

Politics and mistrust may artificially swell the number of required participants (healthcare is more than a catered buffet away from adopting Amazon’s two-pizza rule). Something as simple as setting a date for a meeting when everyone is available can push a process out by weeks, if not months. Inevitably, some important contributors will have a last-minute conflict. The original meeting agenda often devolves into a pontification session with distracted participants checking emails on their phones and little advancement toward a decision.

How can we ensure fewer meetings, using our precious time together to be true decision-making events to advance a project? The most common answer to date has been an untenable volume of fragmented emails, spreadsheets, SharePoint files (people really still use this!?), and other databases that do not spur action.

A better solution is to enable a more efficient platform for asynchronous collaboration among key contributors. Ideas, comments, and assessments can be solicited and shared at the availability of each stakeholder and captured in context of the problem statement, current solutions, or potential solutions being considered. Project owners control the appropriate balance of privacy and transparency to minimize duplication of effort across the organization.

Better asynchronous collaboration can ensure fewer people physically attend fewer meetings and calls,  and when they do, key information and opinions will be understood in advance, reserving meeting time to make decisions that more rapidly advance a project. Let’s stop having meetings about meetings that don’t offer any action items or decisions and ensure everyone’s time is spent more efficiently.

RFIs / RFPs

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In an effort to de-risk a decision, get a fair price, and discern truth amid vendor marketing claims, we in healthcare add months to a procurement process with a request for proposal.

The greatest advance in the healthcare RFP process over the last 15 years is replacing FedEx’ing boxes of binders with emailing word documents and spreadsheets. Not exactly disruptive innovation on the most universally dreaded, antiquated step in the buying process (drawing disdain from both healthcare organizations and vendors alike).

Every RFI or RFP is created and sent as if it were being done for the first time and yet rarely is an original question asked. Just ask the vendors who jump through clerical hoops to nuance their library of prepared answers to meet the requirements and format of each set of questions, always wondering if they are wasting resources on a CYA exercise for a decision that has already been made.

Further, manual effort for project owners to cut and paste siloed answers among Word documents, spreadsheets, and PowerPoint to score, assess, and present results amplifies frustration.

How can health systems ensure the diligence and risk mitigation benefits of an RFP without the exorbitant time, resources, and costs associated with their current methodology?

A network of engaged healthcare organizations that share common challenges and opportunities can collectively engage with vendor partners in a new way that is more efficient and effective for all involved. Common questions and answers can be crowdsourced to minimize unnecessary duplication.

The future state of an RFI can be little more than an appropriate search and application of filters to instantly identify a relevant shortlist. For a deeper dive, posing general RFP-like questions in a common platform (with appropriate privacy controls) can help buyers ensure a more comprehensive question set while helping vendors avoid answering the same topic more than once. Enhanced by automatic comparison, simplified assessments and flexible analysis of results, the expectation is we can minimize decision-making risk for more vendor selections being made without the formal RFP we know today.

By reimagining meetings and RFPs, the healthcare industry can simplify and antiquated process and enable decisions to be made with significantly fewer resources, less elapsed time, and lower costs.

Do you have any best practices around the RFI / RFP process? Leave us a comment below!

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Bruce Brandes
Founder and CEO, Lucro

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