Building Bridges Between Healthcare Providers and Vendors - Cover

Building Bridges Between Healthcare Providers and Vendors

In a complex industry like healthcare, the customer/vendor relationship can be significantly strained. It’s easy for one group to look at the other and say, “If they would just do ____, then all of our concerns would be resolved.” That is sometimes true.

But I would bet that in many instances, the problems that arise in a provider/vendor relationship are much less one-sided than either party would admit.

Granted, that is a fairly safe bet for me because of my insider information. You see, by working at KLAS, I’m privy to meetings KLAS regularly conducts called KPIs. Most people read “KPI” and think “key performance indicators”, but at our company, “KPI” stands for “KLAS Performance Insights” and is the title of a special kind of engagement.

A KPI is an opportunity for KLAS to share the voice of care providers with the vendor community. Over the last seven years of KLAS developing the KPI program, we’ve had the opportunity to meet with hundreds of executive teams from vendors across the healthcare industry.

Through our research, we gain insight from the provider community. Through our KPIs, we learn what’s happening among the vendors. Together, these experiences allow KLAS a unique perspective on the HIT industry.

These visits (which are sometimes tense, table-pounding affairs) allow providers—through KLAS—to express praise and frustration to vendor leaders who can truly act on provider feedback. As KLAS has gained experience in delivering these KPIs, we’ve realized that a great KPI involves more than just a report on market data. A great KPI happens when KLAS can help uncover the deeper problems behind customer experiences. Often, issues that look like simple problems in the provider/vendor relationship actually cover deeper, more complex issues in need of resolution. For example, if customers are complaining about executive involvement, the real issue could be (and has been) poorly empowered support staff.

Recently, I had the opportunity to join our analysts in delivering one of these KPIs. We did spend time on market insights and competitor analysis, but the point of the meeting that impacted me most came during our discussion of provider feedback on the vendor’s own products. We began to dig into the data and uncovered several areas where the vendor had done well for their customers, along with several glaring missteps.

At first, the discussion about those slip-ups felt very shallow. I was reminded of a waterproof tent in a rainstorm because -like water on canvas- everything seemed to roll off these executives’ shoulders. None of the customer commentary appeared to have an effect—that is, until one of the vendor’s mid-level managers spoke up.

This manager mentioned how long they’d been with the organization and that they had planned to build a career around this vendor because of a belief in the work the vendor was doing. After expressing passion for the company’s mission, this manager went on to explain that the vendor organization needed to take accountability for the negative experiences that some of their clients had faced.

The shift in the room was tangible. It was heartening to see these professionals, all motivated and full of pride in their company, lose their defensive tenor and begin to brainstorm on the best ways to help their customers succeed. The vendor didn’t shoulder blame that wasn’t theirs or cave in to unreasonable requests. Rather, they began to look proactively at the problems their customers faced and offer solutions as a partner in provider success, not simply as a vendor selling tools.

We left the day-long engagement with a list of questions the vendor wanted answered and data the vendor needed. Time will tell whether the vendor can capitalize on the newly found opportunities to serve their customers better; we plan to help the vendor wherever possible.

Ultimately, KLAS wants providers to achieve success, which will require the best tools possible. We are glad to play a part, however minor, in bringing provider feedback into the boardrooms of people who can make a difference.