sourceaditya: Top 10 mistakes that’s Doctors’ make in buying medical software in India

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Top 10 mistakes that’s Doctors’ make in buying medical software in India

Choosing software to run a medical practice has never been easy. Earlier it was due to lack of choices, today it is due to profundity of choices but with too much variability. Doctors are a very unique proposition, few things to keep in mind are:

a. To treat a patient and be confident that your decision is right requires tremendous self confidence. Hence doctors have a strong ego. This isn’t argument whether it’s good or bad, simply put if they didn’t medicine would be a farce.
b. They have a tremendous thirst to learn. Years of med school train you to pick up knowledge and most doctors interested in buying software will have some knowledge. As we have often heard, little knowledge is a dangerous thing, especially for those who happen to make software.
c. Doctors are pressed for time and efficiency, at least most are, hence their decisions are based on the fact that “anything that does not gel with me is going to hamper me”.

Doctors who wish to enhance their practice and provide better care and service to their clients by using technology are on the right track. But keeping the above points in mind they aren’t always going about it the right way. Indian doctors especially tend to lose their way in this nascent market. Some of the important mistakes are highlighted below:

1. Over shooting the requirement:
Some doctors tend to want their softwares to do everything, even pay their taxes (Just joking). Sometimes putting too many things in your software tends to delay its deployment, make it complicated to use and once in a while not taking a software altogether because you can’t find one that does. This is also applicable in smaller doses. For e.g. wanting the entire drug database of 15000 drugs in your software! Now you know you will never use even 1/100th of those. There are enough online resources to give you details when you do require some information. Why then load your software and make it slow by cramming it with stuff you will never use. Rather have a small efficient intelligent database which you can grow over time. That’s what we recommend at Plus91. We even have come across instances of clients giving us 300 page documents of what they want, safe to say half way through they walked into science fiction novel. Stick to the basics, your aim is to improve your practice not solve the world healthcare crises.

2. Acting like a bania:
Investment reaps rich rewards. It’s a simple fact of life. Why then try to needle your way to the cheapest bet. Negotiating is great, but actually choosing quality, support and peace of mind over a few rupees really takes the cake. Sad to say this mentality is very prevalent in the healthcare market space. This is mostly due to its nascent nature where the true value of the product “practice management software” is not bench marked. Simple, unsupported softwares made by the local software engineer are dime a dozen in this IT intensive economy. But in the long run it makes more sense to invest a little more in good software and from a company focusing on the healthcare space. Your domain is intense and deserves respect, someone who doesn’t spend time understanding that cannot make a good product. That is why, people who did buy good softwares bought from vendors which were start buy doctors, because they did have the right idea. Bottomline stop acting like a bania in choosing a package. Every doctor I know earns enough to invest in a good package which will enhance his or her practice. Keeping this simple fact in mind, it’s a mistake that Doctor’s chose quality over quantity, especially if the price difference is barely anything. Chose your vendor carefully, you want them to be partners for life. (For that they should make enough to profit )

3. Thinking someone else knows your business:
A lot of doctors tend to put their trust in what their software vendor is doing for them. If a custom built package is being made, unless you provide the vendor with adequate knowledge on your processes, templates and need, the project will never come out the way it was planned. I know doctors who would give a brief outline of what they want and leave it that. Now the vendor is left scratching his head of what really is required and then when he comes out with a best case scenario, the two never meet or even come close. Always be involved in a project for a custom built solution. Do not boss over proceeding but provide all the information required personally. More importantly take updates from time to time. Many times softwares have been reworked and projects delayed because after delivery the doctor realized this was not what he/she wanted. It is a mistake to leave your customizations in someone else’s hands especially in experienced person in the field of healthcare.

4. Digressing from your need:
Keep in mind what will help your practice. See if the product or project satisfies your pain points and gives you enough bragging rights with your clients. That is your primary aim, get your software and run it with these aims in mind. Anything done beyond this should come later. For example, we have clients requesting for Tally integration in their software. Now, this is a great idea and we at Plus91 are working on it and confident about delivering it. But actually delaying an order or cancelling an order based on this feature is unjustified. Your clinic or hospital has a need to manage accounts; if the software caters to that it is enough to allow you to move on to other nuances of deciding on the package. Many times the process of buying the software has gone astray due to discussions and plans built around these noncore needs. It is a mistake to want your software to do too many things first off, get what is essential at the least and start from there.

5. Waiting for something better:
Doctors tend to become fearful of the time they will spend on the software learning it or using it, that they keep waiting for something better to come along. Unless you don’t jump in the water you aren’t going to learn how to swim is simple adage which applies here. Some of the best run private hospitals I know with roaring practices are early adopters to technology. Today they might still be using legacy systems but they are better run then non IT friendly setups. Softwares will evolve over time, it’s time to stop delaying and waiting for something better, because each day we at Plus91 are coming up with something cooler. We don’t aim to give it to you cheap unless you already own our software. It is a mistake to wait when you can always upgrade! Make use of the inherent advantages of the software industry.

6. Thinking your staff shares your vision:
Many good doctors buy the perfect software and then find that it seems to have not helped at all. Sometimes they blame the software, sometimes they just ignore it and never buy or upgrade again. Most doctors fail to understand that their staff is one of the key stake holders in this process. Unless the staff uses the software and maintains discipline in using the package, it is bound to fail. The software may be the best in the world and solve all your issues, but unless the staff wishes it to be used, it isn’t living upto its potential. Doctors need to be firm and ingrain their vision for the software in their staff. Take to task issues in the early days of adoption of people failing to comply with requirements. It is a mistake to assume that software will be easily adopted by support staff, nurses and fellow doctors.

7. Not nurturing innovation:
Today Indian healthcare IT is a nascent stage. The biggest stake holders in this industry today are the doctors. It is important for them to nurture innovation. Sometimes it is valuable to take a risk or allow a software company to go that extra mile in providing a feature which will change the process flow of your clinic. Using the software in the same stagnant way can lead to a deadlock at this early stage. Doctors who deny or outcast software products which provide extra features or new age ideas because they do not comply with their understanding of what software must do make a mistake in closing the door on innovation. A potential client who asks me to block some modules to save money because they won’t use them is basically closing his own mind to the potential of some new processes improving his business. Do not use it if it isn’t your primary aim, but never close the door, because one day you may realize its potential. Even when clients do not ask for the SMS or Email Plug-in we still leave it on the User Interface, because just seeing that button there will make them realize of all the times they wish it was active and could send out a report or reading instantly.

8. Under estimating your need:
There is also such a thing as going for too less. Your clinic needs software to manage accounts, inventory, reporting, patient profiles and referrals. Why then are you buying some small accounting software which is used in a shop? Here the doctor, either due to lack of knowledge of the products available or to save some money is buying a package which does not really fulfill all his needs. Many a times this leads to him being unsure whether becoming IT savvy was helpful in the first place. It’s a mistake to tackle each item in your requirement list with a separate package.

9. Delaying Decisions:
The single biggest mistake a doctor makes in buying software is when he delays his decisions. Whether it is buying the package or providing requirements or taking delivery. What are the outcomes of the delay? A disenchanted vendor, a even more confused buyer (the doctor now whose thinking even more), a anxious staff and finally a client base who haven’t got the satisfaction of being surprised with a better and more efficient clinic. Situations may have shades of gray but decision should be black or white. Stick by the above saying in making decisions for your software. Making too many changes back and forth in a tried and tested product brings about instabilities which may manifest on-going live. In the healthcare business which deals in lives this is not a good scenario to happen.

10. Disregarding the hardware:
Hardware always compliments your software. As much as the software vendor may try to make his solution lithe (Plus91 products can run on any windows and unix system, starting from 256 mb ram, or even an amd netbook processor) to get best results, have good adequate hardware. Do not be afraid to upgrade, or connect on LAN to help enhance the productivity of the medical software. It is a mistake to invest in new socks without the shoes to nestle them in. Buy good and complying hardware which will help you maximize the benefits of the software that runs on it.

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