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Population Health Management 2018, Part 1
Partnering and Guidance - The X Factors to PHM Success

author - Bradley Hunter
Bradley Hunter
author - Paul Warburton
Paul Warburton
January 3, 2019 | Read Time: 6  minutes

When it comes to achieving success with population health management, good technology is not enough. Vendor partnering and guidance are the x factors provider organizations need to drive success with their value-based reimbursement (VBR) strategies. Some vendors have risen to the challenge, while others have faltered following acquisitions or efforts to scale. Whether organizations are looking to engage a vendor for a specific VBR strategy or for a more long-term approach, this report aims to help them uncover which vendors provide strong partnering and guidance to mitigate risk and help customers achieve positive financial and patient outcomes.

To meet their VBR needs, some organizations choose to engage not a technology vendor but a services firm that can provide both technology and value-based care services. Some of these firms do not sell their technology separately from their services, and their customers may have very little interaction with the technology. Because of this, managed services firms Evolent Health, Lumeris, and Premier are not charted in this report alongside technology-focused vendors. More information about these firms can be found in the full report.


What Metrics Are Used to Measure Vendor Partnering?

In over 20 years of HIT research, KLAS has observed that a few core metrics form the main factors in whether a vendor is a strong partner. Some of these are obvious, like strong executive relationships or proactive support, while others, like delivering new, high-quality technology and providing strong integration, are less intuitive but just as indicative of a partnering approach.

strength of partnership

Strong Partners: HealthEC Leads Out in PHM Partnership

HealthEC: Customers are predominantly ACOs. Partnerships very strong, including responsive relationships; nimble, high-quality development; and effective claims integration. Most customers located in northeastern US, but national footprint is growing.

Health Catalyst: Selective in contracting only with organizations whose goals strongly align with vendor’s capabilities. Focus on helping customers achieve PHM goals fosters strong customer loyalty.

Arcadia: Offers managed services in addition to software, which is described as stable, informative, and highly reliable. Delivers accurate integration. Relationships are backed by experienced personnel.

Enli: Flexibility in responding to customers is key to Enli’s strong relationships. Personnel often described as having deep expertise and knowledge. Also flexible in fitting tool to customer needs.

Epic: Native integration with Epic platform is significant benefit; quality tools and consistent development create high customer loyalty. Aligning clinical data with non-Epic data (i.e., claims data) problematic. Communication regarding current and future development is regular, transparent.

Limited Data Vendors

Forward Health Group: Robust analytics tools for claims and clinical data praised for giving clinicians actionable insights. Relationships are focused on optimization and guidance regarding future development.

Innovaccer: Consistently described as partner. Robust analytics platform integrates various types of data. Customers can access key individuals empowered to make changes; scalability of this level of service is yet to be proven.

Lightbeam: Deeply ingrained in customers’ organizational processes, enabling vendor to anticipate challenges and inform support resources about customers’ unique needs and setup. Scalability of this approach yet to be proven.

Weak Partners: Allscripts, athenahealth, and Philips Wellcentive Customers Often Left to Tackle PHM on Their Own

Allscripts: Customers highlight Allscripts' willingness to listen to feedback. However, execution of that feedback and follow-through on improving integration between Allscripts products are lacking.

athenahealth: Promised integration between PHM solution and broader athenahealth platform was slower to materialize than expected. Lacks strong data aggregation functionality and easy-to-use reporting/dashboard tools; customers want executives to follow through on promises.

Philips Wellcentive: Broad, stable technology. Following Philips acquisition, training and implementations have failed to help customers fully leverage and get value from the system. Vendor executives MIA to address challenges.

Limited Data Vendors

eClinicalWorks: Lower partnership due to poor support; customers say success depends on knowing key people at eClinicalWorks who can help.

GSI Health: Customers feel vendor is listening and working on system improvements, but development can miss the mark, and users still must duplicate efforts between GSI product and clinical systems.


Vendor Guidance toward Specific PHM Outcomes

Several PHM vendors are reported to go beyond the standard aspects of partnering to offer their customers guidance in four key areas: strategy, value-based reimbursement (VBR) contracting, product optimization, and ongoing benchmarking/performance assessment (discussed later in the full report). While customers often don’t expect this guidance, many identify it as an x factor in their success with moving toward value-based care or with achieving specific outcomes.

HealthEC the Only Vendor to Excel at Strategic Guidance

More and more, healthcare organizations are asking their PHM vendor for help developing and carrying out PHM strategies. They also want to be included in decisions about how products will be developed moving forward. Few vendors currently do this well. HealthEC is the exception, with customers reporting that the vendor brings deep knowledge and expertise for guiding customers to success. Though they don’t perform as high as HealthEC, a few other vendors are cited for specific strengths around strategic guidance. Arcadia and Cerner customers highlight the vendors’ on-site problem-solving and best-practice meetings, which result in better alignment between customers’ goals and the products’ capabilities. Cerner is also noted for their strong vision of how to succeed in value-based agreements and for taking feedback on product development. On the other end of the spectrum, athenahealth customers feel their vendor’s efforts to have on-site discussions have yet to fully address their needs. They also mention that promised integration was slow to be delivered. Customers don’t see GSI Health as a viable source for strategic guidance.

strategic guidance

VBR Contract Guidance from HealthEC and Health Catalyst Helps Ensure Outcomes Are Achieved 

Negotiating a VBR contract is not something healthcare organizations do every day, and finding the needed expertise internally can be challenging. Since bad VBR arrangements can hamstring organizations’ PHM efforts, provider organizations have increasingly been asking their PHM vendors for help in this area, and HealthEC and Health Catalyst have been the most proactive in responding. As part of their software contract, HealthEC customers are given customized tools to track their performance over time against their contracts and say the vendor is willing to review contracts and even facilitate renegotiation to ensure customers hit their outcomes. Health Catalyst has developed a formal consulting arm to offer customers contract guidance; these services come at an extra cost. Customers also appreciate the less formal efforts of i2i Population Health, Lightbeam, and Philips Wellcentive; these customers receive ongoing collaboration and/or tools for tracking clinical progress against their VBR arrangements.

percent using vendor to assess vbr contracts

Product Optimization: Forward Health’s Training Leads to Optimized End-User Experience

The limited number of interviewed Forward Health Group customers report that collaboration, training, and best-practice sharing are present during all stages of their engagements, leading to high confidence in the vendor’s technology and perceptions of it being very easy to use. HealthEC customers also report the ability to receive ad hoc training as needed and say this is a factor in their ability to optimize their use of the tools. SPH Analytics, Optum, and IBM Watson Health customers say their vendors deliver strong training that creates proficient users, but they would like more best-practice sharing and prescriptive advice on how to maximize reimbursements. Philips Wellcentive and athenahealth customers struggle due to the aforementioned relationship challenges (Philips) and missed functionality expectations (athenahealth).

optimization vs training


Vendors That Deliver on Both Partnering and Guidance Drive Highest Overall Satisfaction

In evolving markets like population health management, provider organizations need vendors who excel at partnering and who are also agile and strategic enough to guide customers through the market’s evolution. For the reasons already highlighted above, HealthEC, Health Catalyst, Arcadia, Enli, Epic, and Lightbeam are the vendors who deliver well in both areas, so it is not surprising that they are also the vendors with the highest overall scores.

Acquisition and Functionality Issues Lead to Year-over-Year Declines for Some Vendors 

Over the last year, several other vendors have seen significant declines in overall customer satisfaction. For Philips Wellcentive, the declines have come for the acquisition and scaling reasons already cited above. With NextGen Healthcare, customers feel they don’t receive the same level of attention they got from EagleDream; also, the quality of new functionality releases has been poor. Allscripts and athenahealth have struggled to meet customers’ functionality expectations, as detailed above.

one year trend of overall score
author - Elizabeth Pew
Elizabeth Pew
author - Jess Wallace-Simpson
Jess Wallace-Simpson
author - Storie Smith
Project Manager
Storie Smith
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This material is copyrighted. Any organization gaining unauthorized access to this report will be liable to compensate KLAS for the full retail price. Please see the KLAS DATA USE POLICY for information regarding use of this report. © 2024 KLAS Research, LLC. All Rights Reserved. NOTE: Performance scores may change significantly when including newly interviewed provider organizations, especially when added to a smaller sample size like in emerging markets with a small number of live clients. The findings presented are not meant to be conclusive data for an entire client base.