Your Simple Guide to Selecting the Right Software Vendor

Having been in Home Care for over 30 years as an owner, administrator, and software vendor, I have seen many regulatory changes affect financial stability and management of day-to-day operations, affecting our ability to provide the best possible outcomes for our clients.  Many of you will remember the Medicare PPS changes in 2000 and their significant change in agencies’ requirements for software functionality and operational efficiencies.  I work with agencies across the country that face the same challenges today, as Managed Care trends become a reality for Medicaid agencies across the United States.

These agencies are struggling because their software cannot meet these changes.  In many cases, the agencies are utilizing two or more software programs to run their multiple lines of business.  A nightmare!!

How does an agency begin to evaluate software that keeps pace with the trends of our industry? How do they find a solution that complies with the required regulatory changes affecting the agency’s lines of business and the states in which the services are provided?

Selecting the best software for your agency is a process that requires dedication, time and resources.    Selection should include evaluation of all processes, procedures and pain points within your agency.  Take the time to go through the necessary steps to achieve your goal!

Suggested Steps:

Step 1: Senior Management decides a software change is required.

This is usually done to maximize efficiencies across all business lines to allow for future growth of the organization.  Software is a tool that your agency will use to create efficiencies.  Recognize that the software will drive change to your current policies, procedures and how you run your day.  Take the time necessary to find the right software to meet your needs.

Step 2: Identify the Stakeholders – both decision-making & functionality-based.

Functionality-based stakeholders should represent all functions within your organization.  Use this as an incredible opportunity to engage your employees.  It gives them buy in; a win/win outcome of software evaluation.  Consider an evaluation committee representing Executive Management, Directors, Supervisors, Intake, Admissions, Marketing, Scheduling, Clinicians, Billing, Payroll, Human Resources, QA, IT, and anyone else who may use the software.

Step 3: Develop three lists, and have your decision-making and functionality stakeholder committees complete them.  These lists should be:

  • ABSOLUTE MUST HAVES
  • DESIRED FUNCTIONALITY
  • ABSOLUTE DEAL BREAKERS

Realize that every software system is a bit different, and none of them are the system you are looking to replace.  Placing certain functionality into these buckets will help you determine if a potential solution is worthy of your time and consideration.

Step 4: Develop a Demo Script.

Include all your pain points, desired functionality and absolute must haves.  Don’t forget to include an in-depth script for all billing, cash app and collections scenarios.  Having specific scenarios you believe are important and/or unique to your business will help you determine which vendors might be a possibility vs. which are not compatible with your specific needs.

Step 5: Search for a pool of eligible Software vendors.

Are you looking for server based or SAAS based (software as a service)?  Server-based software systems often require you to purchase the software, and pay maintenance and upgrade fees.  They also require IT staff on your payroll to manage servers, backups, redundancies, device maintenance, etc.  SAAS-based is a service that provides IT-related needs, software upgrades, and maintenance, and is generally rented on a monthly basis.  Do you need Electronic Visit Verification (Telephony)?  What about smart phone technology with GPS, tablets, Point-of-Care?

Step 6: Evaluate your potential vendors.

Ask how long they have been in the home care software business.  Is Home Care their main focus for software?  How many years has the vendor been around?  How many clients do they have?  They must meet all Absolute Must Haves, some of the Desired Functionality and NONE of the Absolute Deal Breakers.

Step 7: Schedule preliminary demos.

Often developing a list of questions will allow you to have conversations with vendors and can assist in weeding some out.  Prepare the list of questions from your Absolute Must Haves and Absolute Deal Breakers.  Preliminary demos can be done utilizing the web and should include a member of every stakeholder group.

Step 8: Narrow the field.

Do this by narrowing your final selection pool to no more than 3.  Ask for references and verify them.

Step 9: Schedule demos with scenario specific content for the final 3.

Have a representative from all stakeholder areas at the demos.  Allow plenty of time for Q&A.  Create a scorecard that outlines all requirements in the demo script.  Provide the requirements to the Vendor and have them demo to the requirements.

Step 10: Choose the finalist.

Step 11: Negotiate the Contract.

Look carefully; be very clear about what functionality is standard vs. what custom development work will be done?  What is their term and termination clause?  What are their hardware requirements, and configuration and training costs?  Look closely at the pricing structure for hidden costs.  Pay special attention to customer support and dispute resolution processes.

Congratulations!!!!  You now have a new software vendor.  What happens now?  Consider timing the termination of your legacy system while you implement the new one.  You must plan for time and staff resources to utilize both systems during the implementation. Dedicate the necessary resources to configure, implement, and train on the new system.  Software transitions take time, and often experience a few hiccups.   Having realistic expectations will make the process that much smoother!

Annie Lawson

About the Author: Annie Lawson is the VP of Clinical Sales at Sandata Technologies, LLC.  She has been in the healthcare industry for more than 30 years and has experience in Managed Care, Home Care, Healthcare Consulting, and much more.  For more information on this and other healthcare topics please visit www.sandata.com or reach out to us by emailing media@sandata.com.