Choose the right software for aged care: 18 questions to ask a software provider, continued…

| 14 Aug 2013
Questions to ask your software provider

With so many software providers promising you the world, and so many solutions to choose from, how do you decide which provider is going to be the right fit for you and your organisation?

To help you better evaluate the merits of the software solution you are considering, we’ve compiled a list of questions to ask. We published the first nine questions in our last post, and below are the remaining nine.

10. How well does the software solution address our specific requirements?

By this stage, you should have already spent considerable time defining the functional requirements that you expect the new software solution to either contain or enable. Fundamentally, the right software solution for your organisation is the one that most effectively addresses each of your predefined requirements.

It’s important to share this list of functional requirements with prospective software providers, and request that they specifically demonstrate how their solution complies with each requirement. How does the solution score against your ‘essential’, ‘desirable’ and ‘nice to have’ requirements? Be clear and be realistic about the functional requirements. If these are not well defined from the beginning or misunderstood by your provider, the probability of achieving your goals will be minimised.

Does the software have the capacity to produce the reports you need? Can data and information be easily exported? Does it track and record changes made by staff in an accurate audit trail? How easy is the software to use and navigate? How many users/computers can access the software?

11. Does the solution support a single record for clients?

Unfortunately, there are software providers in today’s market offering solutions that do not support a single, electronic record. As a result, aged care organisations are forced to employ separate software solutions for their clinical, care and medication management requirements – an arrangement that requires tedious amounts of manual work.

Be vigilant and ensure that the prospective software provider can offer you a completely integrated software solution that supports care and nursing staff with a single, electronic record across clinical, care and medication management. And don’t just take their word for it! Insist on demonstrations so you can evaluate the software in action. Also ask for success stories and references so you can be sure that their solution works as good in practice, as it does in theory.

12. Is the software solution scalable?

In a few years’ time, your organisation will have evolved considerably so it is vital that the technology and software you invest in today can scale accordingly. After all, the last thing you want to be faced with after undergoing this process, is the need to re-evaluate and invest in an entirely new solution when the system in place is unable to handle your growing needs.

Take the time to properly understand the level of configuration and scalability the proposed software solution offers. Does it have the capacity to be able to scale to suit your needs and grow with you? Will the provider help you to configure the solution in a way that suits your model of care? How easy can the solution be scaled? What will be the costs involved in scaling the solution?

13. How easily will the software integrate with key external suppliers?

When evaluating the functional capacity of a potential software provider, it’s worth finding out from the start, how easily the new software will integrate with third-party suppliers. Does the provider have relationships in place with key suppliers to aged care including GP software suppliers, pharmacy dispensing systems and Dose Administration Aid Services?

From a hardware perspective, be sure to determine whether the solution will work in with your existing infrastructure and technology or if you will need to upgrade your hardware as well.

14. How much is the investment?

Unfortunately, price is not always an accurate indicator of quality. For this reason, it’s never a good idea to purchase new software based on the price factor alone. Instead, evaluate the proposed solution based on how well it delivers on the functional requirements, what it will achieve for you in the long term, and the overall commitment to training and implementation. There’s no point investing in new software – regardless of the cost – unless the provider will partner with you through the entire change management process.

Always be sure to always check for any hidden or additional fees in the fine print. In particular, be mindful of additional costs that may relate to:

  • Number of product users, number of licensed beds and the number of sites using the solution
  • Setup or annual maintenance fees
  • Technical support charges
  • Upgrade options and costs
  • Recurrent licensing costs

Also, are there grace periods that would allow you to get out of a contract after six months or a year if the system is not working for you?

15. What levels of security are in place?

Whether you’re just looking to make upgrades to existing software, or planning to switch to an entirely new electronic system, it is essential to ask the tough questions around data and security.

Find out from the software provider where your data will be stored. Find out what security measures are in place to protect that data and whether or not they meet the data privacy requirements for the aged care industry. Additionally, how often does the provider back up the data and test their recovery procedures? Is there a disaster recovery plan in place? It also helps to understand how updates, upgrades and scheduled maintenance is managed and how this may affect your business.

16. What kind of training and support do you provide?

When it comes to successfully facilitating the implementation of new technology and software, a dedicated change management approach with appropriate communication, training and ongoing support for staff is essential. It’s important that your software provider can offer you the right level of training and ongoing support to ensure that you and your staff get the most out of the software.

Additional questions to consider asking may include: Do you provide adequate training programs? Do you have dedicated training consultants? How do you assist in the development of competency in computer basics, prior to software training? Do you offer ‘train the trainer’ programs to equip staff with the skills to train and support others in your organisation? How will you support our organisation after we sign the contract? What level of support is included in the contract? Will support be available on an ongoing basis or as necessary?

17. What mix of skills and knowledge does your team have?

Throughout the process of product evaluation stage, you would have been dealing extensively with the sales and business development teams. Beyond the sale, it is the rest of the team that you will come to rely on.

Get to know the support, training, implementation and administrative staff of a software provider to ensure they have the right mix of skills and knowledge to be able to ensure your ongoing success.

When asking the prospective software provider about the wider team, look for a team that is diverse in professional backgrounds, a blend of technical and industry experiences, ideas, opinions, and points of view. A great way to get an accurate indication of the kind of team you’ll be partnering with is to request a tour of their offices. Be wary of those providers who may not be so keen on that idea.

18. What provisions do you have in place for eHealth?

eHealth in Australia is gaining momentum and the steadily increasing uptake of Personally Controlled Electronic Health Records (PCEHR) will offer numerous benefits to aged care providers, along with the wider healthcare network. The obvious benefits will include faster, easier access to health information, greater efficiencies, reduced risks, enhanced continuity of care and better outcomes for residents, patients and clients, to name a few.

You’ll want the benefit of partnering with a provider whose software is PCEHR-conformant, and supports additional eHealth standards. Ask your provider if their software solutions are compatible and fit for sharing with the eHealth record system.

Are there any questions we’ve missed? Please let us know in the comments section below. 

(Image credit: Master Isolated Images)

Tags: aged care, aged care software, software provider, technology

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The iCareHealth Team


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