Does Epic, one of the leading EHR providers for US hospitals have crucial interoperability issues? At first, hospitals executives may feel that they have chosen the wrong solution – that the problem lies not with Epic itself, but rather with the approach they have used to deploy Epic to meet their Meaningful Use (MU) deadlines.
One of the biggest issues in Epic deployment stems from poor vendor management, which can lead to faulty system integration, missed deadlines or limited EHR capabilities. That’s why it is critical to choose an interoperability partner able to work with vendors efficiently. Poor vendor management can lead to total interoperability failure.
The Typical Approach To Vendor Management That Doesn’t Work
In many cases, vendor management is an afterthought. Big-box players bring in contractors and outsource their teams to handle Epic deployments. As a result, junior-level engineers with limited experience in managing the transition are frequently in charge of interfacing and vendor management. Those engineers may be skilled technically, but they lack the experience to know how to “drop the hammer” on vendors when necessary.
There are some vendors that are easy to work with in an EHR deployment, but in truth, they are few and far between. After all, a client’s EHR system is not their concern. Getting their systems on board with Epic isn’t their responsibility. They provide a service, and that’s what they stick to, because untangling this mess takes skilled professionals who have technical, communication, project management, and people skills to ensure that those vendors meet their end of the bargain. Junior-level engineers can often become overwhelmed by the back-and-forth, leaving many interfaces to fall through the cracks.
Vendor Management: More Than Just A Project Plan
A solid project plan is crucial when it comes to interoperability. However, a plan alone does not ensure vendors’ cooperation, and it does not ensure that priorities remain aligned throughout the process. Unfortunately, in most cases, that project plan does not include an Interface Manager who tends exclusively to each system every step of the way.
When interfacing falls upon a team rather than an individual, it can be difficult to manage accountability. It’s easy to pass it off responsibility between team members, or assume another person is working with the vendor. Assigning an Interface Manager has a host of benefits. He or she can help:
- Bring accountability among team members to the forefront,
- Ensure that all systems have a plan and a timeline for interfacing,
- Anticipate problems and ensure they are resolved early,
- Supervise vendors directly,
- Ensuring that vendors do not derail an MU deadline,
- Assign individuals to each interface, ensuring they have the time and the responsibility to do so, and can deal directly with the vendor to keep their project on track,
- Work directly with the CIO and get him or her involved immediately if necessary.
Do You Know Who Is Managing Your Vendors?
When the responsibilities of interfacing and managing vendors for an Epic deployment fall on temporary staff rather than seasoned experts who understand hospital workflow, this resulting “mess” drains resources. To build a healthcare system that delivers quality patient care and meets MU deadlines without disrupting daily operations, CIOs should choose an interoperability partner who knows Epic from the inside out: one who can ensure that systems are interfaced and devices are integrated efficiently.