Selecting Healthcare Collaboration Tools

by Mark Wechsler | Arrow Systems Integration

Selecting healthcare collaboration tools can be a challenge. The number of products and services can be overwhelming. That makes it difficult for clinicians and administrators to identify the right tools for both internal (e.g., education, consults) and external (e.g., telemedicine) needs.

Products and services can be obtained through a variety of usage-based, hosted, enterprise models. Some products are narrow and designed to provide a specific capability. GoTo Meeting from Citrix, is a good example of this. Other products from companies such as Avaya, Siemens, Microsoft, and NEC are structured as families, delivering real time collaboration functions including video, audio, white board, file sharing, and messaging. With so many competing products, selecting the right healthcare collaboration tools can be downright confusing.

Suppliers aren’t helping to simplify things. In fact, manufacturers are finding it difficult to differentiate and for good reason. A manufacturer highlighted the problem for me during one of their product webinars. The manufacturer was knowledgeable. They were very good at describing their product’s features and functions. They compared themselves to key competitors in terms of:

  • Home grown development vs. gaining new capability through outside purchases
  • Product structure and architecture rather than distinguishing features or functionality.

In other words, the technology makes them “better”. And to this I say – so what and who cares! They could not describe why their products are superior relative to the user community’s needs. They failed to provide an explanation of value in terms the user community will understand nor was the manufacturer truly aware of the real buyers – the business and clinical administrators.

Selecting the right collaboration tools is difficult for many healthcare providers and payers because the suppliers, in many cases, do not to fully understand the business of healthcare. And the selection is sometimes further confused by IT and Telecom’s involvement. Although it is rarely blatant, the answer, upon digging into the technical team’s recommendation should not be based on Jabber because “we have Cisco switches and routers”. Nor should it be Avaya One-X Mobile and Radvision because “we have an Avaya switch.” Nor should it Siemens, NEC, Microsoft, Citrix or anyone else simply because “we already have it.”

In healthcare, just as in every other business, selecting the right tool requires a top-down understanding of the business problem as well as the clinical/administration processes and the user community. By first looking at the business rather than the technology relevant information impacting tool selection might be discovered. For example:

  • If an ROI has been established and what is the foundation (e.g., cost, clinical/business value, strategic value) for the investment?
  • Who are the primary users (e.g., insurance call center agents, clinicians) and who are the secondary (e.g., subscribers, patients) users?
  • What services will be replaced or augmented by the tool set?
  • Will new processes be adopted as part of the solution?
  • What metrics (e.g., productivity, revenue) will be used to determine the solution’s impact and effect?
  • Are there are state and federal regulations that will impact the solution (e.g., virtual office visits)?

Finding the right collaboration services is first be about the business and secondarily about the technology. Selecting healthcare collaboration tools doesn’t have to be a challenge when the business requirements are understood and the foremost decision drivers.

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