Purchasing new technology is a monumental decision-making exercise for a medical practice. Some of the key areas to consider include patient benefits, practice overhead, potential new revenue, and impact on practice workflow.
One of the best ways to know if a new technology is the right choice for a practice is to research it, whether that means asking the opinions of trusted colleagues or reading published literature on the equipment.
Clifford Gluck, MD, FCAS, owner of a urology practice in Hingham, Massachusetts, is frequently presented with the “next big thing” in technology. But he found that most technologies are oversold, and sellers often greatly exaggerate the benefits.
“Very careful consideration should be given to the purchase of any type of technology, especially those for which the patient will pay out of pocket,” he says. “That’s why it’s important to get the experience of other people who have used the technology and to look at the literature to see what there is in terms of scientific evidence.”
Rafael A. Lugo, MD, a specialist in general surgery at The Woodlands, Texas, agrees that not everything new is better.
“It’s a tough decision every practice has to make on a personal level,” he said. “The best method is to assess current workflows and then see where new technology fits in and how it will help the business or improve patient care.”
From there, he notes, consider return on investment, which will eventually become a driving force behind nearly all new technology.
“If we buy new technology just to be modern, we’re wasting money,” says Lugo. “I think it’s important to have clear goals in all practice expenses. Overhead is the biggest drain on a practice and if new technology isn’t making a difference, it’s often best to ‘expect.
Take a decision
Practices should never jump into something quickly because the technology can be expensive and it’s something they can use for years, even if something better comes along.
“Testing the product on a small scale is crucial,” says Ewa Matuszewski, CEO of MedNetOne Health Solutions in Rochester, Michigan. “Buy a license or two or ask the vendor for a trial period. Never purchase group licenses until the user has had a chance to see if the product meets the practice’s needs.
Another great tip is to look at the customer relations department’s response time, she says. If a doctor fails to resolve an issue within a few days and the vendor does not follow up, this may be a good reason to reconsider purchasing the product/licenses.
David Berg, president and co-founder of Redirect Health, notes that practices need new technologies to stay competitive. This increases the efficiency and effectiveness of the workforce and also reduces the cost of hiring new workers to do what technology can do instead.
When choosing technology, says Berg, “you don’t want to place too much weight on the opinions of other firms, unless they’re ones you personally know or trust. Building a network you trust is an important step for a firm and an effective way to get reliable advice on new technologies you may be considering.
Attending seminars that demonstrate a new type of technology can be helpful, as well as watching product videos and reading about studies that have been done.
“Ease of use and implementation in practice is also important,” Gluck said. “Is this something that will be covered by health insurance or will patients have to pay out of pocket? Will a particular protocol have to be put in place in the practice? Will assistants need to be trained on how this new technology works? These are important considerations.
A bad decision
Getting burned by new technologies or the companies responsible for maintaining them is possible.
“When changes in ownership or priorities with the technology company occur, satisfaction with the cost and/or use of the technology may also change. Getting caught in a bad contract can jeopardize your practice both financially and technologically,” says Berg. “Sometimes a shift in priorities can mean that the systems you rely on aren’t regularly updated, (but it’s) vital to keeping your business up to date with patient expectations.”
Getting a good contract that covers all worst-case scenario concerns is extremely important to protect practices from these situations.
“When you make the decision to buy new technology, you want to work with the seller — your advocate with the tech company — to make sure you always have a contract in case things go wrong,” Berg says.
Lugo has been burned in the past by buying tech too early and buying things that didn’t work as expected.
“One of the most important things I’ve learned is not to buy until you’ve tried,” he says. “You have to make sure all questions are answered and instead of letting sales people tell you how great the system or technology is, you tell them what you need and ask for a demo of how it will work. . Be clear about your needs and expectations from the first conversation.
After all, it’s easy to be drawn in by bright colors and fancy gimmicks, but ultimately, if the technology wasn’t designed to meet the needs of your practice, it could disrupt your workflow and make things more difficult.
“Technology should be an enabler, not a hindrance,” says Lugo.
When is it time?
There are a few important questions to ask before purchasing new technology for the practice: What is their payment financial model — upfront, monthly? What are the termination conditions of our contract? What are the staffing requirements to make the new technology operational? What kind of training will staff need and how long will it take?
Matuszewski cites a popular saying in the industry: “If you’ve seen a practice, you’ve seen a practice.”
“Practice culture, willingness to change, and ongoing practice transformation activities vary from practice to practice,” says Matuszewski. “If I had the choice, I would rely on the opinions of physician organizations that review new technologies and are willing and able to test and support practice needs, from planning through implementation and support. .”
Lugo points out that what works for one practice may not work for another, so even with strong recommendations, a practice owner should consider whether it makes sense for them.
“An important aspect is ensuring compatibility with other systems,” he says. “I wouldn’t buy technology in isolation. I need technology that is malleable and has the functionality to grow, evolve, and collaborate. Healthcare is moving toward systems integration, and new technology must have that flexibility or it will be obsolete in a short time.
This article was first published on MedicalEconomics.com