Now that your organization has a clear idea of what kind of solution(s) it needs to launch its telehealth service(s), you are ready to select a vendor. In this video, six telehealth practitioners share their perspective and insights on what to keep in mind when selecting a vendor.
Vendor Selection Process
To select a vendor you need to gather your User Needs, your Technical Specifications, and the Characteristics your are looking for in a Vendor. Next, you contact and evaluate various vendors (see next section on Finding the Best Vendor), conduct Proof-of-Concept Pilot(s) with your vendor of choice, leading to the final selection of your vendor.
❖ User Needs
Features and functionality needed to deliver the telehealth service(s) according to the use case.
- Features - Your features should come from your clear understanding of the workflow and how the clinicians and allied health staff intend and desire to use the technology.
❖ Technical Specification
Technical attributes (e.g., required interfaces, protocols) and quality attributes (e.g., security, scalability, usability, integrateability, and other “–ilities”).
- Interfaces - The ability to interface with your existing technologies (scheduling system, EMR, etc.) as defined by your workflow. Not every telehealth service needs an electronic interface with your EMR - design your workflow first.
- Standards - Obviously if the technology is generating or handling PHI (Protected Health Information), you need documentation on their compliance with HIPAA and, if applicable, FDA certification.
- Quality Attributes - What is their system architecture and how are they keeping the data secure? How are they ensuring a good user experience? What interfaces exist and to what extent are they implemented (PDF export vs. API interface vs. native integration).
❖ Vendor Characteristics
Attributes such as company history, funding sources, revenue, growth, case studies (track record), founders & executive team, etc. Consider inquiring about:
- Company History - How was the the company founded? Did it grow out of an academic research, a subdivision of a larger company or the result of entrepreneurial spirit? This information can give you insight into how innovative the company may continue to be to allow you to grow with your evolving needs.
- Leadership - Who are the leaders? What is there track record, especially in healthcare? Is there any clinical leadership or is it solely business/ technical? Clinical leadership allows a company to balance its technical and business ambitions with the realities of healthcare and is a big plus.
- Funding - Is this a startup or a long-established company? Are they corporately funded or backed by venture capital? This information will give you some insight as to how aggressively they are trying to grow and achieve a high return for their investors.
- Financials - What is their growth rates - not just in terms of clients and “touched lives”, but also in terms of revenue. Some startups are launching many “free” pilots with numerous organizations to make their numbers and growth look good, but it may turn out a shell game. And 338% revenue growth sounds impressive, but is not much when going from $150,000 to $357,000. Sign a confidentiality agreement and get a real scoop on the numbers.
- Case Studies and References - Request case studies and talk to the clinical and technical leaders of those studies.
Finding the Best Vendor
Armed with the knowledge of what you are looking for in a vendor, you are now ready to consult the Telehealth Vendor Information Directory to contact the suitable vendors.
Next, you organize demos of the most promising candidates to the most suitable vendor. You then conduct a Proof-of-Concept Pilot before finalizing your vendor selection.
Best Practices: Vendor Demos
The three most important objectives for organizing a vendor demo are:
- Obtain feedback from your key stakeholders and future users.
- Let the vendor demonstrate what their solution can do.
- Assess the vendor’s and the solution’s ability to fit your needs.
In particular, to achieve the first objective, follow these steps:
- Prepare the vendor before the demo by asking them to demonstrate their solution applied to your workflow.
- Invite all key stakeholders to the demo, especially clinicians.
- Make optimal use of the key stakeholders’ time, by having the vendor focus only on the workflow in their presence. Delegate technical conversations to meetings with IT staff, but don’t waste the clinician's time with these topics.
Best Practices: Proof-of-Concept Pilot
Proof-of-Concept (PoC) Pilots, when designed well, is the best way to assess a vendor’s technical and service performance. It’s the real-life scenarios and problems when you can truly assess whether a vendor and their solution is a good fit.
The purpose of Proof-of-Concept Pilots is to validate assumptions you made about your service and about the technology. PoC Pilots conclude when the success criteria established at the outset have been met, which requires constant tracking of the key indicators.