4 Things Healthcare Payers Should Consider When Selecting a Consultant

Finding the right professional consultant for your healthcare operations and technology needs can be challenging. Do you go with the cheaper but less professional option? Should you go with the highest bidder with the stellar references? The consultant backed by a massive organization or one from a smaller company that will be more responsive? There’s no Angie’s List of healthcare consultants, but these tips can help you select the right professional consultant for the job.

The Goldilocks Guide

While we’d like to think that money’s no object, it may very well be the deciding factor in which consultant you end up engaging because we all have budgets to live within. As a rule of thumb, you should be getting multiple quotes. Typically, the lowest and highest quotes can be thrown out, but there may be extenuating circumstances or added value to consider. An excessively high quote can be an indication that the firm may not want the job, perhaps because they have too many projects going on already. But cheaper isn’t always better and you certainly get what you pay for. A low quote can be a red flag that a resource is inexperienced, unqualified, or has a bad reputation. A big name does not necessarily mean their team has the depth of experience you need.

The cost of subpar work or a plan that can’t be successfully executed would far outweigh the cost of getting the job done right the first time. If timelines are important to you, it might be best to take the middle quote. Be sure to engage someone who has the time and dedicated focus for your job, in addition to the right experience, network, and qualifications needed to complete the project to your standards. Like Goldilocks, take the time to find a consultant that is the right fit. Unlike Goldilocks, you’ll be sleeping in this bed for months to years, so which one are you most comfortable with?

Find a Rockstar, Not a Rookie

Do you ever feel like it’d be easier to do something yourself than to hire someone to do it for you? If so, then you haven’t met the right consultant yet. A good consultant should be able to jump in quickly and add more to the project through their experience and knowledge of industry best practices. Many large consulting firms recruit resources right out of college, provide their abridged cookie cutter methodology, and then send them out to a client site for on-the-job training, resulting in an extended learning curve. This obviously is not ideal for the client and does not provide the value one would expect from a hired resource. Consultants that have been working in the healthcare industry for years tend to have an extensive network of knowledgeable connections, because it truly is a small world! The relationships and connections they’ve built allow them to call on their contacts for a second opinion, proven processes, and additional insight.

The great thing about today’s core benefits administration systems is that they’re flexible. The danger is that they’re flexible. Your consultant should be able to provide configuration recommendations, outlining the benefits and risks of each option. If your consultant doesn’t understand the why, they won’t understand the how, causing problems in your business downstream. If you didn’t hire a consultant that can perform, you’ll have to live with that broken, scratchy record long after your “rockstar” is gone.

When choosing your consultant, gauge the amount of industry, business, and technical expertise they have. Do they have experience with your core business platform? How many similar projects have they been a part of? Do they know the healthcare industry? How much effort will it take on your part to get them to the point where they actually understand your business and can help you? Think about how long it took to bring your staff up to speed. Demand the A-Team, not a rookie that you have to teach about the complexity of your business. Finding your rockstar consultant will be well worth the work and time invested.

Insist on Performance Assurance

Many healthcare operations projects can be complex, particularly implementing a new core benefit administration system, legacy system migration, and history conversion. These projects can sometimes take 18 months or more to fully go live! With such long timelines and so many moving parts, you’ll want assurances from your consulting firm that they’ll complete the job on time and within budget. Lay the groundwork ahead of time, before signing on the dotted line. Like working with a bad contractor, if you don’t get everything in writing, you’ll have little recourse when you’re mid-project, timelines are slipping, and work isn’t being completed to your specifications. Sure, you can fire your consultant if you’re not happy, but it will put your project even further behind schedule and will be a huge waste of money. If your consultant stands behind their work and will do the job right or fix it at no additional charge, you know that they are committed to completing the project to your satisfaction. Be sure that your consultant is as dedicated to the project’s success as you are.

Pick a Partner

Engaging a consultant is essentially choosing a partner. Finding the right fit is as much a matter of personality as it is about experience. Corporate culture, work ethic, respect, and integrity are integral to the efficiency and effectiveness of any team. Leadership styles and project approaches must be aligned. When interviewing prospective partners, be sure to ask questions geared toward their personality, temperament, work styles, and business influences. This insight will be helpful in deciding whether the consultant will mesh with your team or not.

If you’re looking for a healthcare operations Subject Matter Expert and/or core system support consultant that will be a true partner, please complete the form on the sidebar. We’d love to discuss your needs and work together to find solutions.