7 Questions to Ask a Healthcare Quality Improvement Vendor Before You Sign on the Dotted Line
Finding the right quality improvement vendor can feel like a blur of product demos and proposals. Here are 7 questions you should ask every vendor to make sure they’re more than just a great sales pitch.
We know what you’re thinking: an article about how to find the right healthcare quality improvement vendor? Really, Medisolv... (cue Chandler Bing voice)...could you be any more self-serving?
But we cross-our-hearts promise we’re not trying to trick you into reading a sales pitch. In truth, we’ve worked with countless healthcare organizations over the past 20+ years, and we’ve seen where others have gotten stuck (or even screwed). The heartbreak that comes after investing the time, money, and sweat equity into a less-than-perfect fit can be devastating.
So, we’ve taken everything we’ve learned over the years from organizations like yours—the horror stories and the happily-ever-afters—and distilled it down to 7 questions you should ask your top vendor picks before you sign on the dotted line. After all the product demos and proposal reviews, these are the gut-check-time questions that will help you cut through the sizzle—and separate the hot dogs from the (chef’s kiss!) steak.
Question #1: How do you handle EHR data extraction and aggregation?
Why You Need to Ask This: It’s easy to be wowed by what a healthcare quality improvement vendor can do with your data. But take a step back and make sure you understand how your EHR data will integrate into their system in the first place. The truth is, many healthcare quality improvement vendors require you to hire a second, additional vendor just to extract your data before you can get up and running. That can make the process of implementing your new software even more painful and expensive than you had anticipated.
Bonus! What You Should Ask Your EHR Vendor: Of course, EHR integration takes two to tango, so make sure you consult with your EHR vendor during this process as well. For instance, if you are using the Epic Caboodle database, you will pay a fee to Epic for accessing that data. Some EHR vendors even charge you a fee each time you bring down the data (don’t get us started on that topic). Consider getting you EHR vendor and your potential healthcare quality improvement vendor on the phone together to understand the ground rules and potentially hidden fees upfront.
Bonus! What You Should Ask Your IT Department: Ok, so EHR integration actually takes three to tango when you consider the hoops you may have to jump through internally. Most importantly, some healthcare organizations have restrictions on data access at the health system level. If you aren’t at that level, confirm with your health system that you aren’t limited in any capacity. Or, if you are, understand what security and privacy items must be handled before you get your heart set on a solution.
Question #2: What are your security protocols?
Why You Need to Ask This: Vendors are just as susceptible to security incidents as anyone else, and your protected health information (PHI) can be lost or leaked through them. Evaluate your healthcare quality improvement vendor as an extension of your IT department and your security team. What security protocols do they have in place to protect your data? Make sure your IT department has had time to properly review those protocols.
Bonus! What You Should Ask Your IT Department: Most clients we bring on have an official security review document. You should know what your security team requires up front and have realistic expectations of how long it takes to turn that around. You don’t want to get to the end of your vetting process and find out there’s a major security issue that derails the entire project.
Bonus! Vocabulary Lesson: In your document reviews, keep your eyes peeled for something called HITRUST CSF, a certifiable security and privacy framework with a list of prescriptive controls that enable HIPAA compliance. In fact, the HITRUST CSF certification is the only official certification that proves HIPAA compliance and is considered the gold standard in the healthcare industry. Medisolv is built on HITRUST CSF, and most reputable vendors will be as well.
Question #3: Who will be my day-to-day point of contact?
Why You Need to Ask This: A surprising number of healthcare quality improvement vendors take a “help desk” approach to customer support. Your question or request becomes a service ticket that’s addressed by the next available representative—who may or may not be qualified to resolve your specific concern. This can create major delays in your productivity and major stress, especially during submission season. See if you can get point-of-contact names and introductions before you accept any vendor’s promise of customer service.
Question #4: When will I have access to new eCQM specs?
Why You Need to Ask This: Because CMS changes the measures and requirements. All. The. Time. And you need to know when you can start measuring and monitoring your performance if you’re going to keep up.
Historically, EHR vendors haven’t released updated eCQM specs until late in the year—sometimes even in the last quarter. That’s useless to you. This year, for example, you must track at least 3 quarters of data, and in 2023 you’ll be required to track a full year. So, if you haven’t been given adequate time to track and improve you measures, you’ll be at a disadvantage.
On top of that, these measures are publicly reported, so delayed access can prevent you from realizing you’ve got a problem until it’s too late. The damage on your Care Compare ratings will already be done.
If you really want to drill down on this issue (which you should), be sure to ask them when they released last year’s specs to their clients. That will tell you everything you need to know. (And, in case you’re wondering, Medisolv releases specs at the very beginning of the year.)
Question #5: Can you support my team if we want to participate in a new measure’s pilot program?
Why You Need to Ask This: Since we are talking about early access, let’s talk about new measure release. One of the keys to CMS success is to get ahead of the game when new measures are announced. Using the optional reporting time to develop and optimize your clinical and data collection processes can get your numbers where they need to be before a new measure becomes mandatory. A healthcare quality improvement vendor should be willing to dig into the new-measure-trenches with you because, like most things CMS, new measures can feel like a foreign language you’ve never studied before.
As a point of reference, Medisolv has both Hybrid measures up and running already. We even have the new hypo and hyperglycemic eCQMs, which aren’t even available to submit to CMS until 2023. You should absolutely ask your vendor if they have these measures available. If the measures aren’t available, ask about the process for pilot participation.
Question #6: What will you do if CMS rejects my data?
Why You Need to Ask This: Like death and taxes, CMS giving your data the thumbs down is pretty much inevitable, and you need to have a plan in place for fixing it. Find out upfront if you can count on your healthcare quality improvement vendor to be a part of that plan, or if they’re going to leave you to sift through the rubble on your own. Get specific details on how they will help you troubleshoot and resubmit in order to avoid costly penalties.
At Medisolv we have a series of steps that we take which guide you along the way. We call it our SubmissionsPlus assurance. If your vendor doesn’t have something similar in place to help you troubleshoot your submission, just know that it’s going to take a lot of resources on your end to get to the finish line.
Question #7: How will you help me improve the quality of our patient care?
Why You Need to Ask This: This is the million-dollar “why-do-you-want-to-work-here” interview question. Is your healthcare quality improvement vendor as passionate about improving patient care as you are? Will they help you think big and guide you towards innovation? Or are they just there to help you dot the i’s and cross the t’s for CMS?
Admittedly, this is a more touchy-feely and less scientific question. But as you listen to your vendors’ responses, you’ll be surprised at how quickly your gut instincts kick in. You’ll know if your missions and cultures truly do align—of if what you’re smelling is a fake.
Bonus! Free Education Alert: If you are familiar with Medisolv, you know that we genuinely try to be a steward of the industry. There are a lot of great quality people out there struggling every day to figure out how to improve patient care, and we know that not every team can afford a vendor like Medisolv.
That’s why we provide a ton of free content that’s meant to help you as much as we can. Medisolv’s Education Center is constantly updated with how-to articles, reminder tools, and webinars to help you navigate the latest regulations. The content is FREE—even if you’re not a Medisolv client—because we believe education is essential to advancing the important work that quality improvement leaders like you do.
Of course, we’re also proud of our platform’s powerful ability to give you timely access to data. Many of our clients use their Medisolv data to make improvements to patient care in real-time. And that is what fuels us.
Final verdict: Don’t sign until you’re sure.
Choosing a new healthcare quality improvement vendor is a monumental decision. Don’t be afraid to request references or ask for a second, third, or fourth product demo. And if Medisolv is lucky enough to be in your consideration set—first of all: yay! we’re so excited for the opportunity to work with you!—and secondly, know that we’re always here to answer your questions. Even the really tough ones.
Additional tools to help you vet your healthcare quality improvement vendors:
Along with award-winning software, each client receives a dedicated Clinical Quality Advisor that helps you with your technical and clinical needs.
We consistently hear from our clients that the biggest differentiator between Medisolv and other vendors is the level of one-of-one support. Especially if you use an EHR vendor right now, you’ll notice a huge difference.
Erin Heilman is the Vice President of Marketing for Medisolv, Inc.