10 strategies for successfully implementing pop health systems

  • January 26 2017, 4:00am EST

Key steps in implementing population health management systems

Large information technology implementations often result in 45 percent budget overruns, according to a McKinsey & Company analysis of 5,400 projects. Those risks also can affect providers that are implementing information systems to help them deliver population health management, notes Jason Bator, director of clinical solutions at Casenet LLC, a population health management platform vendor. Beyond the usual evaluation and rollout steps, Bator offers 10 other strategies to consider for keeping a population health platform initiative on schedule and within budget.

The pre-implementation phase

During the planning and vendor evaluation stages, organizations typically know how to compare features of different population health platforms. But do you know how to size up implementation teams? Keep the following concepts in mind.

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Look at the solution partner as well as the project

Choosing the right product is an important first step. However, many organizations underestimate how it is equally important to partner with a knowledgeable, experienced vendor who can ensure that your implementation course is maintained.

Check the solution partner’s references

Hearing from clients that have just been through an implementation with your vendor-of-choice gives you unique insight into what working with your partner will be like, how you will be treated, what to expect and what can be delivered and by when.

Understand the level of implementation flexibility

Customers who purchase population health systems do not always have the time, resources or desire to implement everything the systems have to offer. The implementation model should be flexible enough to allow the customer to launch features critical for go-live based on client needs vs. standard implementation functionality. Implementation methodologies vary between vendors. Methodologies should be flexible and have the ability to scale to the size of the engagement.

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Consider success metrics

Some implementation teams focus on billable hours. Those employees are not motivated to guide the customer to an on-time implementation. The ideal partner should focus on helping the organization bring the population health platform on time and within budget.

The implementation phase—making it faster and more comprehensive

After a vendor is selected and both sides agree on the scope of work, several phases can help smooth the implementation process.

Kick it off on site

Designated team members from both the healthcare organizations and vendor should meet, and the project sponsors should share their vision for the project and solution. The population health platform may be demonstrated again for those customer team members who were not present during the selection process. During the kickoff, project managers walk the teams through the methodology and project plan. Business and IT team members meet, continue to exchange information and discuss upcoming steps for the design and configuration phase.

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Nail down reporting needs

Regulatory or operational reporting plays a major role in the design. Unfortunately, reporting requirements can often be overlooked at this stage of the process. An effective solution team should have a process to identify and define these requirements upfront. To generate reports, the system needs to be appropriately configured with responses that will enable specific metrics to be tracked.

Get user input for design and configuration

Flexible software should enable customers to easily configure systems with user-friendly, non-technical tools. Training the customer to configure the system at this stage promotes customer independence and minimizes implementation costs.

Post-implementation steps—training and gaining efficiency

Typical rollout steps include train-the-trainer programs that disseminate information down to end-users, evaluating and changing organizational processes around new business capabilities the system brings and so forth. In addition, there are some other tactics that can be used to make a more orderly go-live of a population health system.

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Perform User Acceptance Testing (UAT) before deployment

For this level of testing, the customer establishes a formal end-to-end test strategy. UAT involves multiple frontline users completing comprehensive test scenarios, and enables the business team to verify that all content, workflows, handoffs and integration points are functioning properly and can support business activities. Immediately before going live, it is highly recommended that a formal business approval be obtained that requires the sign-off of all key stakeholders.

Perform a mock deployment

Shortly before go-live, some customers choose to perform a mock deployment of their system, which simulates bringing a system to a production state, thus illuminating remaining issues that need resolution. When the go-live date arrives, subject matter experts, IT teams and the partner are either onsite or stationed where they can best support front-line users in case any questions or issues arise.

Choose a timely handoff to production support

Thirty days post go-live, most organizations transition to the partner’s Production Support team; some larger engagements have the implementation team stay on the project to implement additional lines of business or modules of the application. After the transition occurs, new issues are typically reported to and followed up by a designated representative of the partner’s Production Support team.