Best Way to Evaluate any Product - Ask - "And Then What Happens?"

Seth Godin's blog below got me thinking. This is how we should evaluate software and technology products.

A simple dialog can turn opinions into plans (or perhaps, into less tightly held opinions).

We ask, "and then what happens?"

Flesh it out. Tell us step by step. The more detail the better.

No miracles allowed. And it helps if each step is a step that's worked before, somewhere and sometime else. The other question that helps with this is, "has that step ever worked before?"

We don't have a shortage of loud and strongly held points of view about business, culture, or technology. But it may be that finding the time to draw a map helps us get to where we want to go (or to realize that we need a new map). 

What does all this have to do with Product/Software Evaluation?

When doctors buy EMR software, majority of them make the mistake of doing an improper evaluation and testing before buying. This leads to dissatisfaction and practice inefficiencies. Medical clinics have a lot of moving parts and workflows. Doctors will evaluate from the clinical perspective. Office managers and billing staff evaluate the systems from their own workflow point of view.

Where it gets complicated is that they focus on inefficiencies and dissatisfaction with their previous software. They assume that other parts of the system work fine. The evaluation needs to happen as if you are buying a system for the first time.

Every step of the process must be evaluated independently.

Do your homework.

This requires a lot of homework. Start by documenting every step of the process. This is more difficult than it sounds, because you have been doing things for a long time and you take things for granted. You don't do not feel the necessity to document simple steps. Once all the steps and workflow have been documented, this is where you need to ask the vendor, 'then what happens?' Keep on asking this question until you know the exact steps that you have to take in that software to do your job - everyone's job.

There is another side benefit of doing this. It will prevent future finger-pointing. In majority of the cases many unspoken things lead to discontent. How many times have I heard, "I thought you said...", Or, ... "You never told me this..."

Do yourself a favor, and keep on asking "and then what happens?". Spend as much time as necessary with the vendor evaluating the product.

EMR Demand not exciting

HHS announced an easing of the timeline for hospitals and eligible providers to meet Stage II of the government EHR incentive program. This makes State II compliance easier for those providers that qualify for State I in 2011. However, it is too late now to buy EMR software, use it for 90 days and qualify for 2011 incentives. I suspect few providers will actually qualify for incentives in 2011 (estimated at 5%).

This means that the overall impact of EHR / EMR demand is still not enough.

Free EMR Software

I have been trying for a long time to really understand the dynamics of a free EMR, both from a business perspective as well as provider point of view. I understand that almost all companies offering free EMR are web-based EMR software. Therefore the assumption is that they are in a much better position to offer cloud-based EMR where the costs and maintenance of deploying EMR is minimal.

What I don't understand is that EMR is not just a piece of technology or sofware, it is a change in how medical practices are run and managed. It is a paradigm shift. In order to provide the level of support, there must be tremendous amount of support and infrastructure investment. I don't know how the traditional business revenue model of advertising can work. Unless, of course, this advertisement model has an underlying data mining involved; of de-identified patient data.

This is the only way a company can hope to make any significant revenue.

From a Provider's perspective, I have come to the conclusion that free does not work. Where there is no commitment or skin in the game, the desired results just do not happen. Sure, there will be come trail blazing provider and younger provider that can find their own way, but not majority of providers out there.

So, I predict the free EMR model will not work.

EMR Marketing and Sales

I was just speaking to a colleague in the EMR / EHR industry about EMR sales. Are doctors buying EMR in the small ambulatory practice market? This is a small company just starting to get into the market. He said sales are 'not bad'. He claims a 'few' sales a month. In reality, this company is not doing more than 2-3 sales per month. EMR seems to be the place to be. It is incredible - have you counted the number of EMR companies (both client-server and web-based EMR) that have mushroomed in the last 18 months? Granted that the market is still young and majority of the doctors have not yet adopted EMR. But what is happening?

I'll tell you what is happening. EMR (web-based EMR or client server) is becoming a commodity. It is becoming hard to sell on features. It is becoming hard to sell value. It ultimately boils down to Price. Even before looking at a Demonstration, doctors are asking 'how much'?

How do you fight that?

One thing that has not changed over the years is how you connect with the Doctor. What I mean is, giving a demonstration that doctors can relate to. Can the Docs see themselves using your software everyday, in front of patients, when they are done with patients, when they want to access patient data any time? It does not matter how fancy your user interface, it does not matter how many features you have, it does not even matter if it is free.

What I mean is your ability to give a Demonstration that connects with the Doctor. This is a rare skill, however it is something that can be taught and nurtured. Focus on it, your sales will increase.