I recently had a telephone call from a pathologist whose laboratory had engaged a big-name consulting firm (not a specialized LIS consultant) to help them select an LIS. In my judgment, the consultants they were working with were not knowledgeable about LISs based on the vendors selected to receive a request for information (RFI). Some of the best LIS vendors had also declined to participate, perhaps based on the belief that the selection process was wired. Mr. HIStalk has just posted his personal view about HIT (health information technology) consultants. Here is the link and here is his comment (boldface emphasis mine):
I don't really see [the] value [of HIT consultants], charging you $250 an hour while trying to stay awake during demos they've seen 100 times. They do force you to organize your thoughts (an expensive taskmaster) but most of them have unstated vendor preferences and/or relationships that offset their alleged knowledge with self-serving bias. Name the consultant and I'll tell you with 80% accuracy which product they'll recommend even before they bill the first phone call, although that's offset by the 50% of hospitals that ignore they advice they're paying for anyway. I've seen little evidence that clients who use consultants have better outcomes than those who just throw darts at the very short list of potential vendors. Nothing against consultants - I wouldn't turn down the client's money, either.
I agree with Mr. HIStalk's sentiments about most HIT consultants. However, I do respect the very small number of specialized LIS consultants working in the field. Here are my own ideas and biases about selecting and working with HIT consultants:
- An LIS consultant actually needs to know something about the clinical labs in order to advise a client. My definition of an experienced consultant is someone who has been working in the clinical labs and the LIS industry for many years and is well known by lab professionals. Don't accept the excuse from a consultant on-site that "colleagues back in the main office know the labs backwards and forewords."
- Ask for a list of the consulting firm's last ten lab (not health system) consulting engagements and call all of these labs for a referral. If seven of the last ten have resulted in the purchase of the same integrated EMR software suite (see Mr HIStalk's comment above), you may have a problem.
- Most importantly, keep in mind that the role of an experienced lab consultant is to assist lab personnel in selecting an optimal LIS -- this requires that the local lab professionals need to do most of the work in LIS selection with the consultant providing some insider knowledge and industry savvy.
- A typical lab consulting engagement with highly involved local lab personnel might involve a couple of consulting days assisting with RFI and RFP development, a day or two selecting the final one or two systems, and perhaps a day or two during contract negotiations.
- Remember with regard to LIS selection, you will pay now (precontract effort in selecting the optimal system for the lab) or you will pay later (working with an inadequate system for the length of time that you spend with your current lab employer). It's up to you to choose.