Practice administrator Raquel Garcia de Acosta has worked with dozens of vendors — from small ones to large ones, from laboratory vendors to, most recently, an EHR vendor. "If I had to pick my favorite vendor, the EHR vendor would be it, and it's because of their commitment to customer service," says Garcia de Acosta, who works in a solo family practice in Lake Hopatcong, N.J. "They have been very focused on making sure that their customer is well taken care of, but they've also listened to some of the suggestions we've had and taken them as suggestions that they've incorporated into the software. I think there's nothing better than when you stress a point to someone that something could possibly be done a little bit differently, and that person listens to you and incorporates it."
The easy partnership Garcia de Acosta enjoys with her Hello Health EHR vendor is the type of relationship that, unfortunately, not all practices share with their vendors. And when that healthy relationship is lacking, it's a problem that can lead to timeline delays, poor product utilization, and even failed implementations.
Whether you're going through the vendor selection process, or you already have a longstanding relationship with a vendor, here are some tips for how to experience the type of healthy vendor relationship that Garcia de Acosta's practice is enjoying.
Miscommunication can be a major source of problems when interacting with vendors. That's why it's critical to have a solid one-on-one communication channel between the practice and vendor, says health IT consultant Bruce Kleaveland. "Many individuals within a practice may have various different issues with a particular vendor," he says. "It's really more effective for [the practice] to channel those issues to a single person who then can communicate it with the vendor so that the vendor isn't getting 15 calls, from 15 different people, with 15 different issues, expressed in 15 different ways."
It's also crucial for the vendor to assign a responsive and reliable point person to work with the practice. Just as important, that individual should have a solid background working with that vendor (try to avoid new hires), and he should be familiar with your specialty, says Laurie O'Brien, vice president of implementation for Physicians EHR, a Raleigh, N.C.-based consulting firm. If you have been assigned a point of contact that lacks the proper experience, ask to have a different person added to your account, she says, noting that an unseasoned point person is one of the most detrimental problems practices face.
Ever have a coworker leave all the heavy lifting to you? It causes serious tension. That's why it's critical to ensure your practice is fulfilling its implementation and project management responsibilities. "It varies depending on what's being implemented, but generally my recommendation is that the practice is very involved in understanding what's happening with the implementation — what their roles and responsibilities are versus the vendor's roles — so that they aren't simply leaving it to the vendor to do everything ...," says Kleaveland.