16 key factors in evaluating EHR vendor support

Response times and the variety of ways to access help are among the ways to assess technical assistance.

16 key factors in evaluating EHR vendor support

Healthcare organizations weigh many factors in choosing a new electronic health records system, such as the quality of specialty-specific templates, the number of clicks needed to perform an action, user friendliness, and more. Often lacking from that list is the level of support from vendors pitching an EHR product. That’s because the need for support isn’t a priority—until it’s needed. Chart Logic, an software vendor that develops products for ambulatory care providers, lists these 16 key questions to ask to fully assess support expectations.

1. Is vendor support in-house or outsourced?

It is important to know the amount and quality of knowledge a support team has of the vendor’s products and services. Do support personnel know the intricacies of each product or service, or are all their responses scripted? The ease with which the provider can communicate with support determines the likelihood that an issue will be understood and resolved, especially if the concern is severe.

2. Is support US-based?

Knowing where the support is based will help determine if support hours are within the practice’s hours of operation if the vendor does not have 24/7 support. If the support is not based in the U.S., how are support personnel educated about products and services? To what extent are they being trained? These factors will help determine if they can handle the most difficult support cases.

3. Is support available 24/7?

Finding a contact time that works for the provider office and the support team can be a barrier when it comes to getting “live” support. If they aren’t available 24/7, the practice might be forced to leave a support ticket and wait for them to respond. This is not an ideal situation for practices looking for a quick solution.

4. Is support available through phone, chat and assigned account managers?

When a practice is short on time, having multiple channels for communication is a boon. Some issues a practice may experience might require direct and immediate contact through a phone call or instant chat. Other times, the issue may not be as urgent, and an adequate venue for support could be sending a ticket request through email. Regardless, having multiple support channels is a good indicator of a well-rounded support team.

5. On average, how long is the hold time to speak to a support representative?

Even if the vendor has multiple modes of communication, that doesn’t mean a provider won’t have to wait on hold to speak to an actual person. For some companies, waiting for a representative can take 30 minutes or longer. The selected support team should do better.

6. On average, how long does it take for problems to be resolved?

A provider needs to know this to better adjust work schedules. Waiting on hold for a short time might seem great at first, but if getting a resolution takes longer than necessary, it will inhibit how quickly the practice can return to normal activities. Be sure the support team handling concerns can do so efficiently to minimize resolution times.

7. How often are cases escalated when needed?

There are instances where concerns cannot be resolved by the first point of contact. If so, the support team should have a defined process for escalating the case to the second or even third tier of support. Getting leadership involved early on with a complicated case helps speed up resolution times and gets the practice back to focusing on the task at hand.

8. Is there a clear escalation path?

If the vendor offers escalation for technical support cases, where is the provider being transferred to? Does the protocol the vendor follows make sense, or is the case being passed back and forth? In addition to having a clear escalation path, the provider should be informed on the status of the case every step of the way. Knowing how close the issue is to being resolved, who is handling it and what steps are currently being taken keeps communication channels open if the provider has additional questions.

9. Are support representatives actively engaged in their work?

Are providers identified solely by an account number, or do the support personnel know them by name? It’s a more pleasant experience for a practice to know it is more than a number, especially when spending a lot of time working together. Also, if there is high employee turnover at the vendor firm, providers will spend more time with new representatives who are unfamiliar with the practice, rather than someone known and trust.

10. Will the practice have a dedicated account manager?

Having an account manager assigned to the practice takes engagement to the next level. An account manager is not only a specialist in resolving technical issues, but they serve as the go-to representative for any account questions or concerns the client may have. They have a deeper understanding of the needs of the office and can vocalize the needs to others on the team as well as other departments. Most importantly, the account manager is someone to build a rapport with and trust to have the practice’s best interests in mind.

11. What is the firm’s retention rate with clients?

Good indicators of client satisfaction include the vendor’s retention rate or the amount of time they have been with a specific client. A company with a high retention rate indicates that they are providing quality products and services as well as maintaining satisfied customers.

12. Does the vendor have a strong user community?

A user community gives a provider the opportunity to gather information from other clients about their daily use of the vendor’s product and services. A user community also provides ideas for product and service utilization based on back from other clients, which can lead to a smoother implementation.

13. Does the vendor have a help site?

Help sites are tools for getting answers when a practice needs them, regardless of the time of day. They provide tutorials, commonly asked questions and answers, systems requirements and known errors being addressed, among other issues. This can cut out the middleman of support allowing a provider to get answers directly on their schedule.

14. Do they offer consulting services?

There are times when the practice will need assistance that goes beyond technical issues. Consulting services provide an avenue to brainstorm with the EHR vendor to solve unorthodox questions. Consulting, coupled with technical support, provides the coverage an office needs to address the diverse problems it may encounter.

15. Do they offer IT support?

Information technology support should go above and beyond standard practices. Going the extra mile could include having an additional on premise or off-premise IT support team. Either way, the support team should be dedicated to making sure the practice’s technical architecture stays up-to-date and secure. This enables keeping the office running efficiently without the concern of managing additional staff.

16. Is there a centralized support system?

One of the first questions considered when needing to contact support is who to call when there is a problem. Does the provider contact the EHR side, practice management side or billing side of support? If the EHR vendor does not have a centralized support system, it can be difficult to determine who to call when the practice is at a standstill. If the support structure is under one umbrella, the organization will know who to contact regardless of the concern.

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