Five Ways to Control Technology Vendor Demos
By Cheryl Toth
Ever notice that most technology vendors don't know much about your practice or your specialty when they give you a demo? That they go full steam ahead through a rote presentation without asking any questions about your needs or practice operations? It's enough to make a busy physician or manager walk out of the room and let the vendor just keep talking.
But with a little prep, you can avoid time-wasting demos. Use these tips, and the demo will be more relevant to your practice's needs, every time.
1. Send vendors a practice profile.
Most vendors dive right into their generic show-and-tell, without asking about the practice. So take the initiative and send them a little information about your practice. Include your website address, specialty, and number of physicians, staff, and office sites. Provide a list of the technologies you currently use — practice management system, EHR, appointment reminders, patient portal, payment technologies, automated callback systems, etc. You'll know if the sales rep has taken the time to check out your website and read the practice profile if the demo is relevant to your needs. If he never acknowledges anything you've provided, well, that says a lot too.
2. List the business problems you're trying to solve.
Defining the problems you are trying to solve enables the vendor to customize the demo to your needs. A sales rep who values your business will use this information to provide context when explaining the technology's features. Don't make this complicated, but do think about the high-level objectives you have for the technology that you are evaluating. For example, "We need to improve the efficiency of surgery scheduling and reduce paperwork," or "We need a secure messaging solution," or "We want to reduce no shows using automated reminders."
Send your top three to five problems to the vendor and ask it to show you how its tool can solve them.
3. Put your minimum requirements in writing.
A minimum requirements document is the list of features that a software program must absolutely have if you are going to seriously consider buying it. Your time is valuable. If a vendor can't deliver on at least 90 percent of your minimum requirements, don't schedule the demo. It's a waste of time.
Having minimum requirements "in your head" guarantees you will forget half of them during the demo. So put them in writing. For instance:
• Appointments and patient account data can be accessed from iPhone or Android.
• The EHR has two-way integration with our practice management system, which is: ____________.
• Eligibility verification automatically generates a daily report of ineligible patients, along with their contact information.
4. Create a "Top-10 Must-see Features" list.
The billing team may want to know how the system compares payer reimbursement schedules against individual payments, and whether there is an automated task manager to keep them on top of collections. Physicians may want details on how many clicks it takes to e-prescribe, and whether that feature is available on a mobile device. The administrator may want a sample view of key reports.
Get input from everyone in the practice to create this list, and tell the vendor you want these features covered.
5. Give the vendor an "Off Limits" list.
If the vendor rep spends 15 minutes on the basics of registration and appointment scheduling, she may never get to the features you really want to see. Telling a vendor what you don't want to see during the demo is as important as telling it what you do want to see.
Drive the conversation by telling the vendor what your priorities are. For example: "What interests us is the quality of your reporting, the patient portal features, and how electronic remittance advice (ERA) works. We have a hard stop after one hour, so please skip these basics:
• How to create a new patient account
• How to schedule an appointment
• How to generate basic reports such as the daily collections total and aged A/R
Make it clear that if these features are covered in the demo, the demo is over.
With a little planning, you can avoid hours of wasted time reviewing software tools and product features that aren't relevant to your needs. Provide tech vendors with practice details and a list of the problems you want to solve. Explain the features you do and don't want to see. Taking a few simple steps with vendors will put your practice in the driver's seat.
Cheryl Toth is a leadership and implementation coach with KarenZupko & Associates. She brings 20 years of consulting, training, product and executive management to her projects. She can be contacted at email@example.com.