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Managing Patient Engagement Technology, Vendor Selection Process

Anticipating implementation issues during the patient engagement technology selection process led to smooth implementation for Henry Ford Health System.

patient engagement technology selection

Source: Thinkstock

By Sara Heath

- As healthcare technology continues to advance, it presents ample opportunities for health systems and hospitals to enhance the patient experience. But implementing a new patient engagement technology is easier said than done, as organizations struggle with the technology selection process.

The request for proposal (RFP) process is fraught with tough vendor decisions and an onslaught of competing priorities. But when done right, this process can yield a new patient-centered initiative that both improves the experience of care for patients while leading to better care outcomes.

At Henry Ford Health System, a careful RFI process has landed them with a new in-facility patient engagement, education, and entertainment option.

When the health system’s director of Care Experience, Vanessa Mona, saw that the system’s TV and other technology contracts were up, she knew it was time to rethink how Henry Ford Health System would approach care experience transformation.

Improving the patient experience would not only mean providing an in-facility entertainment option and patient education tool, but it would also mean creating standardization across all of the system’s sites.

READ MORE: Moving Beyond the Portal with Patient Engagement Technologies

“We had TVs at our hospitals, but we had variation,” Mona told PatientEngagementHIT.com. “We had two different vendors. We had different hardware. We had different content on the TV. Some of our hospitals were charging for TVs. So that wasn't a consistent experience.”

“If we were truly going to function as a system, we needed to have one vendor, one contract,” Mona added.

The trouble was, Mona and her team didn’t quite know what options were on the market. Who were industry leaders? What functionality did different vendors offer?

“We weren't sure what was out there from a patient engagement education entertainment type system, so we really wanted to just level set with the current trends,” she explained. “We invited three vendors to come in to do a showcase to us on what's the latest and greatest technology that they have and how these companies are growing.”

The health system invited its two existing vendors, as well as another that Mona had heard about through a supply chain service.

READ MORE: What Is the Future for Patient Engagement Technology, Health IT?

These presentations were simply for background, Mona pointed out. As the RFI process continued, she and her team identified which technology features were important to them.

“It was important to us to have a hardware and software on the same contract,” Mona offered as an example. “It was important to us to have a vendor that could provide us that same look and feel at every location, but then also if we needed to make changes at one of our local areas, we could easily do that, and we really can really manage some of that stuff on our own.”

Additionally, Mona and her team looked at the other tools that came with the vendor’s offerings. If those tools aligned with Henry Ford Health System’s future plans, it was something to consider, she said.

Health system leaders were not alone in this decision-making process, Mona explained. Leadership would not necessarily be the end-users of a patient engagement technology, making it essential that Mona and her team assemble a team of stakeholders who could provide input in the technology selection.

“This wasn't a solution that was just going to be led by our leadership team,” she noted. “We needed everyone engaged from IT to nursing to the provider side. We literally had a multi-disciplinary team.”

READ MORE: Patient Engagement Technology Comes to Forefront in Healthcare

That team consisted of Henry Ford Health System’s chief operating counsel, frontline nurses, frontline managers, and other key end-users whose feedback and buy-in would be integral to the implementation process.

“Having that multi-disciplinary team evaluate helped everyone feel that their voice was being heard and that we ultimately, together, came with one solution that as a system we support and can really help, again, grow with us,” Mona said.

In fact, convening the multi-disciplinary team helped mitigate one potential challenge many organizations often face when implementing a new tool: drumming up support from end users. Because Mona and her team brought everyone to the table during the decision-making process, they received the seal of approval from everyone.

But there were other challenges, including ensuring a vendor would be able to work around some of the infrastructure barriers in the Henry Ford Health System facilities.

“As an organization that's over a hundred years old, we had a hundred-year-old building that needed to be rewired,” Mona reported. “When we narrowed it down to our final two vendors, we said, ‘Okay, now we need you to do a walk through at every single one of our facilities, and we need you to understand the landscape of what you're working with. Then when you're coming back to us with an implementation plan, we need to have realistic goals of what's going to actually happen.’”

Ultimately, anticipating and dealing with these potential implementation challenges upfront was what has brought Henry Ford Health System success. Moving forward with its vendor of choice, SONIFI Health, Mona and her team are able to drive patient education and entertainment in a standardized and efficient manner.

“Right now, we're doing patient education, and we went live with taking our care plans and assigning patient education videos to them,” Mona concluded. “We had a very robust execution plan, implementation plan. Every deadline was met. The fact that we did that upfront helped us in terms of not running into some challenges later on.”

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