Four Questions to Ask Before Investing in a Technology Vendor Package

September 28, 2013

While many technology vendor package deals provide several advantages, others have some big drawbacks. Make sure you do your homework before investing.

Many technology vendors offer package deals, in which they bundle multiple technology products and/or services such as software products, software and hardware products, or technology products and outsourced services.

But while some package deals provide advantages over a more a la carte approach to technology purchasing, other package deals have some big drawbacks. Make sure you do your homework before investing in a package.

Here are four critical questions to ask:

1. How much experience do you have providing the products within this package? As vendors rush to broaden their customer base and expand their technology offerings, some are releasing packaged products prematurely, Michelle Holmes, principal at Seattle-based ECG Management Consultants, told Physicians Practice. Ensure that the vendor you are considering has a strong background and expertise offering each of the products included in the package, as well as supporting each of the products in packaged form. "I would ask really simple question like: 'Are we the first one that you've bundled these particular technologies or services together for?' 'Do you know that these things actually work well together?' Have you supported these things together?'" said Holmes. 

2. Can I 'unbundle' the technology and services within the package if it becomes necessary? Sometimes practices will find that most of the products within a package work great, but one or two products comes up short. "I think the biggest pitfall you have to make sure of with a package is can you unbundle the system if it becomes necessary," Jeffery Daigrepont, senior vice president of Coker Group, a national healthcare consulting firm based in Alpharetta, Ga., told Physicians Practice. "In some instances the practice may find that they bought a package and they actually love the practice management part of it but the [EHR] part became too difficult for the doctors to use so the practice may later want to buy a different [EHR] but keep the original practice management system," he said. While most vendors will allow you to unbundle the system, some vendors prohibit it. "That could mean that you'd have to replace everything."

3. Can I work with other third-party vendors if it becomes necessary? The vendor will, naturally, want to provide as many technology products to you as possible. Make sure that if you purchase a package from the vendor, you will be able to partner with other vendors, if necessary, said Daigrepont. For instance, you may want to use a claims scrubber provided by a different vendor, or you may want to have your existing PAC system interfaced with the bundled technology. "Make sure that even though you’re buying the package that if you encounter a circumstance or a situation where you need to partner up that you can still do that," said Daigrepont.

4. Is all the technology within the package provided by you or does it require a third-party partnership? If you are purchasing a technology package from a vendor (such as an EHR and a patient portal) ask if the vendor is providing both products, said Daigrepont. "Nowadays when you're buying an [EHR] it's pretty inherent it’s going to include all the things necessary to comply with meaningful use," he said. "Having said that, patient portals can be a little bit tricky because some vendors have it baked into their product as an organic feature and function or module, and other vendors partner with third-party portal companies."If your practice finds that the portal included in a package requires a third-party partnership, find out who the third-party is and conduct your due diligence, he said. For instance, find out how your package will be affected if the partnership between the vendor and the third-party falls apart.