Selecting and acquiring an information system can be a huge investment for health care organizations. There is the initial cost and a host of long-term costs associated with maintaining, supporting, and enhancing the system. Health care professionals need access to reliable, complete and accurate information in order to provide effective and efficient health care services and to achieve the strategic goals of the organization. There are several skate-holders with different roles within this process and while maintaining, supporting, and enhancing the system.
Selecting and Acquiring an Information System
System acquisition refers to the time the decision is made to select a new system until the time the decision has been negotiated and signed. The process of selecting and acquiring an information system can take a few days to a few years depending on the size, structure, complexity and needs of the organization. The process an organization generally goes through in planning, selecting, implementing, and evaluating a health care information system is known as the systems development life cycle.
System Acquisition Process
Step one is to create a project steering committee. The primary function of the project steering committee is to plan, organize, coordinate, and manage all aspects of the acquisition process. The committee should clarify the charge to the committee and define project goals. (Charge describes the scope and nature of the committee’s activities). Next the committee needs to conduct a cursory review of the electronic medical records marketplace and begin investigating vendor profiles. The project steering committee also needs to define system goals. Once the goals of the new system have been established the committee should begin to determine system requirements. The requirements should address everything from what information should be available to the provider at the point of care to how the information will be secured to what type of response time is expected.
After the organization has defined its system requirements, the next step in the acquisition process is to package these requirements into a structure that a third party can respond to. This creates a request for proposal (RFP). The request for approval provides the vendor with a comprehensive list of system requirements, features, and functions and, asks the vendor to indicate whether its product or service meets each need of the organization.
The next step in the acquisition process is to explore other options. The two other options are an application service provider and system developer or build-in-house. The application service provider is an alternative to buying, installing, and maintaining the information system. An application is an organization which health care providers contract on a subscription basis to deliver an application and provide the associated services to support it. System developer designs a system for your organization. The developer may be in-house or by an outside firm.
Next is to evaluate vendor proposals, then develop evaluation criteria. The project steering committee then holds vendor demonstrations. The purpose of the vendor demonstrations is to give the members of the health care organization an opportunity to evaluate the look and feel of the system from a user’s point of view, validate how much the vendor can deliver of what has been proposed, and narrow the field of potential vendors. Once this is complete the committee needs to make site visits and check references. After reviewing the vendors’ request for proposal and evaluating their product demonstrations the committee should make