Healthcare Analytics, Population Health Management, Healthcare Big Data

Population Health News

Which Population Health IT Vendors Offer Strong Partnerships?

Some population health management vendors fall well short of the mark for their customer service skills and ability to partner effectively.

Population health management and health IT vendors

Source: Thinkstock

By Jennifer Bresnick

- Developing a comprehensive, effective population health management (PHM) program is often a long and challenging journey – one that requires healthcare providers to forge strong partnership with their technology vendors.

In order to get ahead of chronic diseases and help individuals maintain wellness, providers need access to sophisticated predictive analytics, risk stratification tools, and other actionable insights derived from their big data assets.

But high-quality algorithms are only half the battle. Healthcare organizations should feel equally confident in their day-to-day relationships with their partners as they do in the functionality of their health IT tools.

To reduce the complexity of choosing a customer service model that best fits a provider’s needs, KLAS surveyed customers of leading population health management companies and ranked the vendors according to how well they partnered with their clients to help providers reach their long term strategic goals.

What does a population health management partnership look like?

Not all analytics tools are created equal, and neither are the companies that develop and support their health IT products. 

READ MORE: How to Choose a Population Health Management Company

Some offer highly personalized, ongoing implementation and optimization services, while others adopt a more hands-off approach that may be more suitable for organizations with higher levels of digital maturity.

In addition to offering a solidly built and highly usable product, a true population health partner will take the time to understand what each client needs, whether that differs from the client expects, and how to achieve the customer’s overall financial and clinical goals.

A highly-ranked population health IT vendor offers helpful guidance to its clients and responds quickly when something goes amiss, the report explained.

“Vendors who partner well are highly responsive when issues arise as well as proactive in preventing issues and communicating with customers,” KLAS says.

“They provide quick problem resolution by removing barriers between customers and the vendor personnel who are empowered to take the required action.”

READ MORE: Which Population Health Companies Get Top Marks for Value?

Strong partners also make themselves indispensable, KLAS notes, by offering best-in-class capabilities to support value-based care and proactive patient management.

“Data sharing is one of the most acute pain points in healthcare. In nearly every segment that KLAS measures, integration is a major factor in overall satisfaction and success,” the report observed.

“It is so essential that vendors who provide awesome products and phenomenal relationships but don’t integrate well end up being perceived as replaceable rather than as long-term partners.”

“Strong integration is even more crucial in population health management, where various types of data need to be aggregated from many different sources.”

Most companies that are perceived to be good partners will also score high on customer loyalty, but few health IT vendors are immune to their clients shopping around for a better deal on both functionality and service.

Well-known brand names fall short of expectations

READ MORE: Top 10 Challenges of Population Health Management

A handful of industry staples may need to reevaluate their customer relationship strategies, the report revealed.  Allscripts, athenahealth, NextGen Healthcare, and Philips Wellcentive all saw significant declines in customer satisfaction during 2018, ending up at the bottom of the heap for their people skills.

athenahealth had a particularly rocky year, scoring the lowest in satisfaction in five out of the six categories included in the report.  Customers panned the company for its overall product quality, delivery of new technology, integration support, executive involvement, and the quality of its phone and web support services.

“PHM customer base includes many ACOs,” said KLAS. “Over the last several years, athenahealth has failed to meet customer expectations regarding how quickly integration between the PHM platform and the rest of the athenahealth software suite would be provided.”

Customers also cited concerns about the accuracy of data integrated from multiple sources.

Philips Wellcentive achieved an unenviable last-place tie with athenahealth for poor phone and web support, and scored similarly for overall product quality and the delivery of new technologies.

Issues appear to stem from Philips’ acquisition of the Wellcentive product line, which previously scored highly on customer relations.  Clients expressed frustration with a lack of responsiveness and poor quality assurance processes.

Allscripts customers also griped about how the company handles issues and concerns.  The company achieved the lowest ranking for proactive service, and barely improved on athenahealth’s score for integration support.

“Allscripts customers highlight the vendor’s willingness to listen but feel that execution on customer feedback and follow-through on improving the integration between the Allscripts modules is lacking,” KLAS said.

Clients feel that Allscripts should provide more help and support for making the most of admittedly good functionalities, especially when it comes to data aggregation, interoperability, and maintaining interfaces.

Three additional companies, eClinicalWorks, NextGen Healthcare (EagleDream Health) and GSI Health, also lagged behind the pack on key metrics.  However, limited data collected from users prevents KLAS from offering full rankings for these entities.

Population health companies that excel in customer service

At the other end of the spectrum, a number of companies have ticked all the boxes for their clients. 

HealthEC shines particularly brightly in its customers’ estimations, achieving the highest satisfaction scores in 5 out of 6 categories, and barely falling to second place for web and phone support.

Clients were especially enthusiastic about HealthEC’s executive involvement, and the company stood head and shoulders above its competitors on overall product quality.

“Over the last few years, HealthEC has managed to set themselves apart from other PHM vendors when it comes to being a strong partner who is fully engaged in their customers’ population health management efforts and strategies,” KLAS said.

The company takes a very active role in helping their ACO customers integrate multiple data sources and resolve issues with accuracy in critical datasets, such as claims.

Despite its high scores, KLAS pointed out that the company may be subject to growing pains in the near future, and will need to ensure that it can maintain its reputation for good relationships as it adds new types of customers in new business regions.

It may be able to take some cues from Epic, which KLAS highlights as an example of a large vendor that hasn’t lost the ability to deliver a personal touch.

Epic’s laser beam focus on creating a highly integrated, comprehensive data environment has been effective for its population health management customers, the report says.  However, some customers are struggling with the flip side of this approach: managing data outside of the Epic ecosystem, such as claims data, can be a challenge.

Health Catalyst, Enli, and Arcadia also made the list of strong PHM partners. All three work diligently to forge close relationships with their clients and make an effort to understand and help achieve their clients’ goals.

Health Catalyst ensures alignment by choosing its customers carefully to begin with, while Arcadia promotes transparency and access to standardized data to inform its consumers. 

Enli received accolades for its goal-oriented flexibility and knowledgeable staff, indicating that old fashioned customer service has certainly not gone out of style.

PHM companies to keep an eye on

While neither the best nor the worst in this year’s rankings, there are plenty of companies working fervently to improve their reputations and offer increasingly sophisticated technologies for a growing customer base.

Several newer companies, such as Innovaccer and Lightbeam, currently have fewer clients than their peers, prompting KLAS to offer preliminary rankings – but those customers are enthusiastic about working with these vendors.

Innovaccer has stacked its advisory board and executive ranks with highly respected experts in technology, clinical care, and population health, earning it a higher executive involvement score than Health EC or any other vendor on the list. 

The company’s preliminary scores also topped the charts for integration skills, proactivity, and the delivery of new technologies.

Cerner Corporation, a force to be reckoned with in the electronic health record market, scored true neutral on most metrics in the population health world, and therefore represents the industry average.  However, the company pipped Epic to the post when it comes to providing strategic guidance for its clients, and came second only to Arcadia in that category.

“Over the last year, Cerner has made efforts to deliver better guidance to customers regarding customers’ strategic goals, and this has led to Cerner being seen as providing strong guidance,” KLAs pointed out.

“Customers praise Cerner for bringing organizational and vendor leaders together for strategic discussions that enable Cerner to know how to complement their customers’ visions for population health management.”

Forward Health Group and i2i Population Health are also on the watch list: the two companies received very good marks from customers in previous KLAS user satisfaction reports, and have the opportunity to surge ahead of competitors if they continue to develop their capability and relationship skills while avoiding the pitfalls of corporate growth.

Overall, the market remains wide open for companies with excellent technology products to cement customer loyalty through strong partnerships and meaningful personal interactions with provider staff.    

“Provider organizations are relying on their PHM vendors now more than ever to step up and be a true partner by offering responsive, effective product support, strong functionality, and seamless integration,” the report concludes.

“Organizations have limited PHM resources and expertise on their own, so they are looking for vendor partners who will go above and beyond to guide them through the various nuances of population health management.”

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