Customer feedback is a critical piece of any commercial relationship, and its impact in health IT can be particularly valuable – but timing is everything. For other industries, customer feedback surveys and Likert scales at the end of a project may be effective means of measuring satisfaction. In healthcare, this type of qualitative feedback is often too little too late. IT vendors need to evaluate the customer’s perception of the product and its value at each stage of integration.
Implementing new health IT requires an investment of a hospital’s resources, time and effort – from initial installment costs, to the hours spent ensuring end users are properly trained. It could take upwards of a year until the technology is up and running and making a noticeable difference. This means that vendors need to be there every step of the way and act as a support system throughout the implementation journey. This can be done by fostering a continuous feedback loop with customers, characterized by open lines of communication. In healthcare IT, ongoing subjective feedback during the following three phases is vital to a successful working relationship:
- Pre-project feedback
Before diving into the implementation process, it is important for vendors to offer customers an opportunity for feedback up front. This includes setting expectations, discussing the scope of the project, aligning on deliverables, and identifying resource allocation. Pre-project feedback gives customers an opportunity to outline the challenges they hope to address, confirm their comfort level with the framework you have provided, and understand that they play an essential part in the success of the program. While this may seem standard in a business agreement, this initial conversation helps establish a strong partnership built on open communication.
- During the project
Health IT projects inherently pose challenges and risks. Health systems often require support as workflows adjust with the introduction of new technology. There are bound to be staff members who are not completely on board. In contrast to the objective goal-setting conversation prior to the project, the feedback loop throughout the project should be more subjective in nature, as vendors get a sense of the customer’s temperament around the technology and the implementation process. Is the project going the way the customer hoped it would? How does their staff feel about it? Do we need to spend more time on change management? By working with customers to identify weak spots and addressing these types of questions, vendors can then make appropriate adjustments to the project as it evolves.
- Post-project analysis
At the end of the project, vendors often engage in a more traditional customer feedback loop, where they discuss lessons learned. However, if a vendor has worked to establish open lines of communication with customers prior to and throughout the project, this post-project analysis should not be full of surprises. Rather, this should be a review of issues previously identified, followed by a constructive conversation focused on how the vendor handled the issues. While post-project customer surveys can be effective for large samples of data, they are not applicable to singular health IT implementations, where the most important feedback is the customer’s general perception of the project, the overall quality of vendor support, and how they envision the impact of the technology going forward. Instead, a qualitative analysis gets to the heart of how leadership felt about the project, and the vendor can confidently walk away with knowledge to apply to other customers.
Getting buy-in from all partnership stakeholders
These feedback conversations should be ingrained in the daily operations with customers and involve all levels on both the vendor and customer side – from the C-suite to the end users. For example, since physicians typically do not have time to respond to surveys, vendors can instead use the in-person installation experience to gather feedback from physicians. This end-user feedback can prove extremely valuable for the direction of the project. By emphasizing transparency, partners can ensure any challenges along the way are managed in a spirit of teamwork, aspiring to the same goal of improving patient care.