In the years following the passage of the ACA, population health tools have taken on an increasingly prominent role in payer strategies to improve health outcomes, evaluate quality of care, and cut costs. The demand for nimble solutions has only grown, leading many organizations to reassess their current workflows and consider enhancements or upgrading to new solutions.
Population health systems touch nearly all aspects of a payer’s operational workflows, data management processes and architecture, as well as the customer journey across the care continuum. Implementing new population health systems can be a time intensive engagement fraught with delays and inflating budgets, but there are five steps organizations can take to minimize delays and enable successful implementations before a project even begins.
1. Establish planning and leadership engagement up front
Time is of the essence. Planning should begin prior to the project kick off. Start planning early and use the time between contract signature and the formal kick-off to your advantage. Organize internally, gain consensus, and identify the best team to meet the project’s demands. A defined implementation roadmap and rollout strategy is key to the team quickly becoming aligned and enabling a clear, focused delivery.
Executive sponsorship is a must, as their commitment and guidance will help ensure alignment of the organization’s implementation roadmap and objectives. “Right size” planning is necessary as each implementation requires varying levels of dedicated support. Identify the “right team,” tailored to project specifics, before the project kicks off. Engaging the right internal subject matter experts (“SMEs”) and external vendors will ensure alignment around project objectives and address capability gaps.
2. Success is rooted in a partnership mentality
Within an implementation, it takes a village to be successful. A collaborative and transparent environment fosters a streamlined delivery effort where all partners are aligned to shared success. Without a partnership mentality, implementations have greater potential of being fragmented and delayed with sub-optimal results. Who are your potential partners?
- Enterprise partners can be found throughout the organization and should be engaged to foster a committed partnership around the success of the implementation.
- A vendor package partnership is critical as the vendor’s involvement, commitment, and contribution go a long way toward successful implementations and upgrades.
- Client partnerships should be treated as a luxury. Create ownership among the client and foster their ability to provide feedback. This partnership will yield benefits to the end-product, the organization, its users, and clients.
- Instill a systems integration partnership. A system integrator brings a familiarity of both the solution and implementation disciplines, while acting as a conduit to ensure the technology being delivered is aligned to the organization’s business needs.
3. Leverage the package capability appropriately
Whether implementing a solution off the shelf or performing some level of customization, detailed frameworks must be in place to meet enterprise goals and ensure resources are needed for enhancement and production support. Understand your target process and align to the solution package. Remember, the package was selected because of capability fit or alignment to desired future state processes. Trust the decision and selection. Time and time again, with implementations and upgrades, the organization focuses on making the product its own and the effort diminishes value realization. While most solutions are not tailored to exact needs, there is a place for customization and sustainability. “Smart customization” to meet the business need is effective when it considers global configuration and solution sustainability. Minimize customization and enable capabilities by leveraging proper expertise and technology to configure the package and enable future upgrades and integration with other platforms.
4. Do not underestimate data conversion and systems integration complexity
Integration of legacy system(s) with new technology can often lead to increased development, time, and costs. Integration with core platforms is not a “one-time” effort. It’s key to understand the information flow between the applications to ensure you are sending data which is relevant, timely, and consumable. Don’t forget about data conversion— it’s bigger than it sounds. Take the opportunity to clean up data and assess risk prior to project launch. It’s an ever-evolving ecosystem. Be cognizant of enterprise architectural changes that will impact all systems, roadmaps, and schedules.
5. Change management cannot be an after thought
Reduced performance levels should be expected so plan ahead. Operational preparedness and training will enable your team to rebound and avoid the prolonged productivity dips associated with new technologies. Change management planning and execution, when not planned for properly, will acutely impact your customers when teams are unable to use a new system. Understand those changes, create the necessary training or roadshows and make sure the team is ready for go-live. Change goes beyond training and operational readiness. Preparing for a large-scale implementation or upgrade may also require redefining technology support, roles and responsibilities, organizational operating models, governance structure, and incentive models.
Implementation and upgrade efforts are significant, but there are steps to take before the start of implementation that can set your team up for success. After your implementation, recognize that success must be celebrated throughout the journey. Establishing and monitoring key milestones goes beyond the project plan. Celebrate the hard work of the team to sustain their commitment and motivation.