Evaluating how a technology is going to work in your specific situation is really difficult. It’s relatively easy to see how it works for others (at least for somewhat mature solutions) and there is generally lots of marketing material to pursue, but when you evaluate a technology solution, the best way to get true insights on its pros and cons is by learning from the people who are actually using the solution you are interested in. Sometimes you can do it by reading user feedback on different research sites, like KLAS, or by conducting a reference call.
However in my opinion, the ultimate evaluation can only be accomplished by visiting and seeing things with your own eyes. During a site visit you get to experience the solution first hand, talk to people in the trenches, and experience the technology from the appropriate stakeholder’s (Patient, Staff, System Administrator, etc.) perspective. Since a site visit is a significant time commitment it is important to properly prepare for a site visit to make it worth the time and money spent on traveling and being out of office.
Here are the 5 steps we follow when assisting our clients in readying for a technology site visit:
1. SET CLEAR OBJECTIVES FOR YOUR SITE VISITS
Before you even ask a vendor to arrange for a site visit, your organization needs to have a clear understanding of what you want to accomplish. Is it verifying your assumptions regarding technical capabilities? Is it to see how staff members use the system? Or maybe it is to hear how to drive process improvement and ROI. You need to know what you want to learn in order for the vendor to effectively select and coordinate a productive site visit. This means that you should look for the location that closest matches your need to see certain things… not the closest geographic location. Yes, you might save a few dollars and a little time by going to the client located in the next town, however plane tickets are relatively cheap in comparison to the overall investment you will be making in technology, processes and people. Also, don’t just go to see if a technology works… that’s the easy part. Go see an organization that has figured out the processes surrounding RTLS system and who are willing to share their best practices on the right way to use RTLS. From our experiences with rehabilitating many failed RTLS projects, we know that people often follow “shiny objects,” such as some trendy RTLS hardware technology, forgetting about the importance of investigating the impact on their operational processes and organizational readiness to bring real-time technology onboard. We make sure you will not only see the technology, but foremost discuss process changes and people readiness to make your RTLS initiative a success.
2. ASK FOR THE RIGHT PEOPLE TO MEET WITH
In addition to choosing the right organization to visit, it is also important to ask for the right people to meet with. You want to have an opportunity to interact with variety of folks – representing operational teams, IT teams, and care providers. Ask to meet with people who are using a system on a daily basis, not just those who made a purchasing decision. A good practice we use to make sure our clients meet with the right people is validating the agenda before the visit. You will be able to see who you are going to meet with and what is their role in the organization – all to ensure you are getting access to critical constituents. From our experience it is also helpful if your team can provide in advance a short list of the most important things that they need to accomplish during the site visit. We don’t suggest overwhelming your host site with requests, but a list of 3-5 items that are important is generally appreciated by all.
3. SEND THE RIGHT PEOPLE TO THE SITE VISIT
Similarly to choosing the right people to meet with, you also need to send the right people to the site visit. Having representation from your IT team is usually appropriate, as is having someone from the specific departments that may most utilize the technology, however who you really need are the people who will be working with the system each day and also those who will be utilizing the data and reports generated by the system to drive process changes and measure results. When assisting our clients with site visits, we map out what departments and roles will be involved in the RTLS project, which helps them decide on who should really go. And before you go, don’t forget to get the visiting team together to set on what needs to be accomplished during the site visit. Additionally, we highly recommend that you find a few “skeptics” on your team to join you… sometimes they see things with a different lense that can be very valuable and often they can become your greatest advocates once they see the solution in action and operational benefits.
4. SEE WHAT YOU WANT TO LEARN ABOUT IN ACTION
Don’t settle on a quick meet and greet and seeing a powerpoint presentation in a conference room somewhere in the hospital. Go where you will be allowed to walk the hospital floors, poke into storage rooms, and chat with nurses and BioMed engineers. What you want is to fully experience the process. For example, if you are planning to deploy a patient flow solution – visit a registration area, observe how patients are interacting with a technology e.g. self-serving kiosks which dispense RTLS badges. Likewise, don’t go somewhere where you will be rushed through the process – two, three hours is not enough time to see, learn, and ask questions.
5. SCHEDULE DEBRIEFING MEETING AFTER THE SITE VISIT
When planning a site visit you need to start with the end in mind. As part of your process, you should ensure that everyone attending expects to participate in a “visit debrief” meeting once you get back home. They should be prepared to share their observations, voice concerns, and discuss the things that were most impressive. This way you can make sure you are using the time and resources of the visit to systematically advance your decision making process. Our consultants are often asked to join our clients in the debriefing meetings to provide an additional and experienced perspective and often times think of things that might not otherwise be adequately considered.
Site visits are tremendous opportunities to confirm if you are on the right path. By following the steps described above you will ensure you make it worth your while and the time the hosting organization is gifting to you.
As final steps, we also encourage you to remember to:
1) provide a note of appreciation to site that is hosting you. While they are generally thrilled to be able to “show off” what they’ve accomplished, hosting visits can be a time consuming event for the host.
2) reciprocate one day the value that you received from a site visit and host other organizations who are seeking to replicate your successes with Real-Time Locations Systems.