Moving the most patients through the Operating Room(s) as safely and cost effectively as possible is job one for ASC administrators. Getting the right technology in place to improve efficiency is a big part of getting that job done — but it’s not easy. You’re likely comparing vendors, examining software, discussing APIs, and planning any needed implementations. Here are some considerations to make as you navigate your software options.

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Does this scenario sound familiar? On Thursday, registration went down, pushing the entire surgery schedule back. On Friday, the new OR manager got stuck trying to navigate your ASC’s version of Op Notes. According to her, ‘The onboarding was great, but there’s still a lot of things I don’t know how to do.’ Finally, part of your weekend is once again blocked out with prepping case costing reports for the Monday board meeting.

Sheesh.

Nobody’s perfect, but these days, your ASC software seems to be doing more harm than good. But is it really the software? Maybe there are deployment issues to resolve, or the implementation was poorly — um — implemented. Before you hit the “switch” button, or pull your hair out (whichever comes first), take a closer look at why staying with your current software vendor makes sense, or whether you’re ready to call it quits.

Client may have more relevant/realistic examples to include in this scenario.

It’s Not You, It’s Me

Remember that boyfriend/girlfriend who could practically read your mind? Neither do we. Otherwise, we would’ve married them.

There’s a similar dynamic involved in working with vendors. They expect youto know how to define your processes. You expect themto figure out how you work, and automate and standardize things in a way that makes sense for you. The hard truth is that up to a point, they really can’t read your mind. “Most successful implementations are about the hard work of figuring out what you really want the software to do and translating that into action,” says software entrepreneur and professor Alexander Cowan.

Even if you already have a detailed ASC platform, and you’re at the point of debating the pros and cons of staying with your vendor, invest some time defining your processes: What are you trying to accomplish? What processes need to be defined? Get as detailed as possible to design and describe how you get work done, and then figure out how to use technology to automate them.

Perhaps the software works just fine, but the deployment went off the rails. The handoff from one department or job function was ineffective, or the time frame didn’t allow for critical staff to take it for a “test drive.”

These considerations are tough to explore, but extremely helpful when you’re debating whether or not to pull the plug and switch, or dig in and try to make the existing ASC platform work.

Here’s how one team moved through their requirements. They were looking for an entirely different kind of software, but their criteria doesn’t seem too far off:

 

 

 

[NOTE: Scene from first “Mary Poppins” where Jane and Michael Banks deliver their criteria for the Perfect Nanny, which — no surprise — isn’t at all like what their father wants]

Map Out an ASC Software Evaluation Spreadsheet

Now that you’ve defined your processes, and have specifics on what you want the software to do, develop a framework to guide your decision making process. Draft an evaluation spreadsheet to bring all your variables into one place.

Here’s some of the key attributes to run through the Pro/Con matrix:

Pricing and Contracts

This warrants its own post, but the basic tenet holds true: everybody has a number. If you’re wavering on sticking with your existing vendor, perhaps a price cut, along with some other sweeteners to the deal, is enough to make you stay. Perhaps they offer greater functionality, but you’ve been reluctant to investigate because of cost. Now’s the time to see if they can add features without stretching your budget further.

Alternatively, your best negotiating stance is at the outset of a new relationship. Have your budget floor and ceiling well established before you get down to negotiation.

Last but not least, pull in your legal counsel to vet every line of the contract. You didn’t go into medicine to become an expert in contract law, and you shouldn’t have to become one either.

Staff turnover

The account manager from last month is not the one you have this month. Sometimes this happens in organizations where account managers are paid based on how many new accounts they land. Sometimes they leave voluntarily or get promoted.

Regardless, high levels of turnover with a vendor’s account management is never a good sign. You don’t want to waste time getting your vendor up to speed on your center operations and special software considerations. You want someone who values your business enough to ensure some level of continuity with their account managers.

According to one consultant, “Staff turnover is another signal that the service provider is not giving priority to your account or giving people incentive to stay. They're looking to greener pastures."

Scale and Control

ASC Data AnalyticsYou may have started with colonoscopies, but now your ASC is a multispecialty operation, with more procedures being added. Regulatory, quality and other measures have changed the scope of what you need from software. There are more integrations to consider, but the supposedly open APIs promised by your vendor aren’t really working together the way you thought they would.

In today’s ASC market, nobody has time for inflexible and outdated software. Your software should be able to handle detailed reporting, manage policies and procedures, security, and human resources — and more — all in one platform.

At the same time, you don’t want them to become too intertwined with your center. Think of a tree that engulfs an iron rail fence. (Fun fact: there’s actually a cool word for when plants incorporate foreign objects: edaphoecotropism). Your vendor’s software shouldn’t be built so tightly around your operational ecosystem that it becomes too destabilizing to switch.

Data Ownership 

Unlike paper charts, where you pay to have records stored and/or destroyed as needed, any digital solution is a bit more complex. Your vendor should be able to tell you where and how data is stored — Is it hosted? Where? Will I be charged? How a vendor answers these data ownership questions has legal and ethical implications, so proceed with caution. Perhaps the most important data issue of all is data access. If you and your vendor part ways, the vendor can restrict or even terminate access to your center’s data, even though they are legally required to keep it.

Integrity and Relationship

It should go without saying, but integrity and the quality of your vendor relationship is pivotal. If you have a vendor that keeps their promises, even when things go bad, that adds a lot to the “pro” column. Your relationship should be built on trust and mutual respect — not working through the latest set of nickel-and-diming negotiations to add a certain functionality. Think of it this way: if you ever cringe when their number pops up on your phone, you probably don’t have a relationship you’re interested in sustaining.

The Sunk Cost Fallacy

One more consideration to bring to weighing the pros and cons of software switching is the Sunk Cost Fallacy. It’s an economics term that describes how people remain in a losing situation, but resist getting out of it because they’ve already sunk too much time and money in it. In the long run, this “the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know” mindset is likely to be more damaging. You’ve sunk your most valuable resources — time and money — into a vendor relationship, and you can’t recover them.

This kind of “loss-averse” framing of the situation is far more damaging and unproductive than it looks at first glance. Rather than thinking how much you’ll lose, focus instead on the gains that will come with moving on. Think of it less as an optimist vs. pessimist outlook, and more as a gains vs. losses framework.

Still unsure? Put your clinician hat back on and get a second opinion about your vendor situation. Talk with a fellow ASC administrator, or log on to the ASCA discussion board. It always helps to hear how others have handled a similar situation.

An ASC Platform With Everything You Need

This is hard. Making the decision to stay with or switch your ASC software vendor is a major decision that requires careful thought and an even more careful look at all your options. Simplify ASC wants you to stop and take a deep breath. As an ASC platform leader, Simplify has helped ASCs make the change and have helped clean-up some implementations by others that haven't gone as planned. We’ve seen it all, and we’re here to help.

Our job is to be like the swan: paddling with all our might to help you glide through the day…or something like that. Regardless of the metaphor, our job is to provide you with an ASC management platform that has everything you need. Nothing’s over-engineered: it’s designed to fit your workflow and grow with you — whether you have a stand-alone center or multiple sites. It’s backed by 24/7, you-centered support that builds relationships and creates fans — not just users.

Need some help weighing all the software pros and cons? Our guide walks you through everything you need to know about an integrated ASC management platform.  Learn how bringing clinical and business operations together calms the crazy and helps you learn to love the way you work.

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