Healthcare reliability: 3 keys to choosing your ECM solution


A doctor works on her laptop.

Information and data drive every process in your healthcare organization, but if you can’t get the information into the right hands, your processes can fall apart.

That’s where enterprise content management (ECM) comes in.

An ECM solution acts as a central repository for all the content and information in your organization. By integrating with some of your organization’s most critical systems, from the electronic medical record (EMR) to your payroll application, ECM automatically categorizes your content and moves it through the appropriate processes. That way, you can always find the information you need, when you need it.

But how do you decide which ECM solution to go with?

The checklist for reliable ECM

From the emergency department to HR, the right ECM solution can vastly improve your organization.

There are three key components that go into determining the reliability of an ECM solution. Let’s take a look:

1. System uptime

This is probably the most obvious way to measure system reliability, and an ECM solution is no exception. System crashes, instability and the frequency and nature of system updates can all negatively impact uptime. The size of an ECM solution’s user base is also important because solutions without a large, diverse user base are often not optimized for healthcare’s strict uptime requirements.

Here are factors to consider then determining how much uptime a solution really provides.

The first factor to look into is stability. Does the solution suffer from frequent or prolonged system crashes? If you hear from analysts, peers or other customers of the solution that this is an issue, it should be an immediate red flag telling you to steer clear. Otherwise, the risk of your system going down is always present, thereby removing the access to content that led you to ECM in the first place.

When looking at stability, the size and diversity of a solution’s customer base is one of the most useful determining elements. Solutions with a small user base may not be optimized for the strict uptime requirements of the healthcare industry. At the very least, they haven’t been tested and proven in a wide range of real-world applications. On the flip side, a large and varied user base grants the experience and prior knowledge required to create the uptime of a reliable solution.

Another factor that impacts system uptime is the frequency and nature of updates. Overly frequent updates can seriously decrease uptime. Whether it is planned or not, downtime keeps your users from accessing the content they need. If a solution is constantly being taken down for updates or bug fixes, it only adds to the existing downtime from problems that may arise.

When looking for the right ECM solution for your organization, ask about its update schedule and how much downtime can be expected for each. Also, don’t forget to ask about how that schedule changes when you choose to expand the solution to more departments in your organization. Do updates become more frequent or take longer to perform? This is an important determining factor if you plan to have your system scale with your organization.

2. User access

Although a system may be up and running, it’s of little use if it cannot serve up the content clinicians and staff expect. Strength of integration with other systems, database stability and other factors determine whether a physician can see the content they need.

Can the ECM solution retain the content types your organization depends on? If not, how will users access it? This is where a vendor with a large and diverse customer base becomes important. That signals experience with a number of content types and the likelihood that the solution can handle each. It also suggests that any new content types will already be on the vendor’s radar.

Next, look at a solution’s ability to integrate with other applications and systems throughout your organization.

For example, your EMR and accounting and billing applications are crucial to everyday processes. Connecting each to allow instant access from any system eliminates the need for your users to switch among platforms. This speeds processes and creates a stronger user experience — even if users never know they’re working in two systems at once. Find an ECM solution that integrates with your familiar systems and improves user access to your content.

You also need a solution that can integrate with future applications. As your healthcare organization continues to grow, you want your ECM solution to grow with you. Otherwise, you could quickly outgrow your solution, shrinking user access and eroding your technology investment.

Measuring user access is not limited to the four walls of your organization. Cloud-enabled access to content is also important. Supplying your clinicians and staff with access to the information they need via mobile devices that connect to your systems and the latest data while in the field and at home — whether they have internet access or not — allows them to complete tasks more quickly.

Without it, work takes longer to get done, costing you time and money. That means finding an ECM solution with flexible access options translates directly into the speed of user access you require.

> Read more | The 9 key benefits of cloud computing in healthcare

3. IT maintenance

Sometimes it’s easy to overlook this, but even when a system has high uptime and delivers content quickly, it may not be truly reliable. A reliable solution doesn’t require a disproportionate number of IT staff for support. Reliability also transcends the technology itself because the ECM vendor should quickly and efficiently answer your questions and provide guidance.

Cloud-deployment options (think IaaS vs. SaaS vs. Paas) are important here as well, giving you the option to hand the responsibility of maintenance over to the vendor and freeing your IT staff to focus on other projects.

True reliability also means finding a solution that does not burden your IT staff — and by extension, your budget.

Choosing an ECM solution that requires minimal staff to support it is crucial. A solution that easily integrates with other applications and does not require custom coding dramatically reduces the initial cost of the system as well as ongoing upgrades and maintenance costs. But for this to happen, you need to find the other major component of easy IT maintenance — a reliable vendor.

The right vendor knows the ins and outs of your industry and its specific needs. It can also create solutions to answer those needs while working to meet the future needs of your organization. But true vendor reliability doesn’t end there. It needs to be available to your organization as well.

Let’s face it: The implementation and upkeep of any major solution will have some headaches. But the question is, will the vendor be available when you need them to solve your issues? When it comes to IT maintenance, a reliable solution has a vendor that will always be there to talk or walk you through your problems.

So for those times when your IT staff runs into problems it can’t solve, you need to evaluate how well your vendor answers questions and offers guidance. If it really knows your industry and your solution, it should be able to lend support to lessen the burden on your IT staff as well as assist in building a roadmap for your future.

In the same vein, a vendor that offers cloud-based deployments of their ECM solution can be a game changer for your IT staff. Taking away the burden of general upkeep and updates enables IT departments to focus on long-term planning and solution building.

Healthcare is an industry that is constantly seeing new laws and regulations come into the fold, so an experienced vendor really pays off. Without one, you can end up with a solution that requires a disproportionate amount of support and a lot of problems you can’t fix.

Learn more about Hyland Healthcare.

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With more than 20 years of healthcare technology and leadership experience, Susan deCathelineau is Hyland's senior vice president and chief customer success officer. In prior roles, she has led health information management, revenue cycle, and electronic medical record initiatives and has transformed processes by building and leading successful cross-functional teams. Before joining Hyland, she was Director of Corporate Information Systems at Allina Health. There, Susan led an enterprise-wide implementation of Hyland’s OnBase content services solution and its integration with the Epic EMR. Prior to Allina Health, Susan was vice president of product management at QuadraMed. She managed the product launch strategy and go-to-market programs. Susan holds a bachelor’s degree in health information management from the College of St. Scholastica and completed her master’s degree in health services administration at the College of St. Francis.
Susan deCathelineau

Susan deCathelineau

With more than 20 years of healthcare technology and leadership experience, Susan deCathelineau is Hyland’s senior vice president and chief customer success officer. In prior roles, she has led health... read more about: Susan deCathelineau