Navigating the Sea of Epic Consulting Firms relied on interviews with 333 chief information officers, chief medical officers, IT managers, and other executives at 130 healthcare delivery organizations. KLAS identified 45 firms with Epic consulting engagements--26 consulting firms that had three or more Epic consulting engagements and an additional 19 firms engaged in at least one Epic project. The survey was completed between Jan. 1, 2010, and May 1, 2012.
Researchers found that demand for Epic consultants is at an all-time high, and the complexities of an Epic implementation project, along with meeting Meaningful Use requirements, have created a demand for high-priced IT skills that are often in short supply. To complete implementation projects on time and on budget, customers--mostly large hospitals and health systems--are forced to engage multiple consultant firms as they implement Epic's EHR.
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"What we are seeing with Epic isn't that dissimilar to what we see in other areas where providers implementing an EHR system are trying to meet Meaningful Use requirements to qualify for federal funds. This is placing a higher demand on consulting firms," Mike Smith, vice president of Services Research at KLAS, told InformationWeek Healthcare.
"The good news is that there are very good consulting firms out there that are doing some very good work to help providers get ready. The bad news is that some provider organizations that may have otherwise done it themselves if they had more time and perhaps did not have the same level of pressures are finding themselves in positions where they have to use third-party resources."
To further examine these consulting companies, KLAS categorized the 26 firms that have three or more unique customers into four broad categories:
--Enterprise Implementation Leadership & Advisory. The five firms in this category provide many services, including vendor selections, pre-implementation planning, implementation, clinical transformation, and post-go-live support. The five firms--Accenture, CSC, CTG, Deloitte, and Impact Advisors--are also building their Accountable Care Organization (ACO) and Health Information Exchange (HIE) practices.
--Team Implementation Leadership & Advisory. Three firms—Encore (the highest rated), Aspen Advisors, and Dell Services--make up this group. These firms have a wide variety of advisory services and assist with IT strategy and road maps, post-live support, and total cost of ownership (TCO). They often engage in multiple projects within an organization and provide significant amounts of smaller-scale, project-based implementation support.
-- Staffing and Implementation Support. Sixteen companies make up this category. These firms, which include Beacon Partners, CSI Healthcare IT, H/P Technologies, and Xerox, provide consultants to fill a variety of needs, including a boost in staff with Epic application expertise. These engagements are typically smaller in scope and do not include multiple projects (such as advisory, staffing, and technical services).
--Advisory. There are two firms in this category: KSA and PwC. KSA plans to remain a strategic and management consulting firm, while PwC is growing its healthcare practice and is pursuing lead implementation work.
To guide health providers in selecting the appropriate firm to work with, the report's researchers explained the strengths and weaknesses of each firm, based on their interviews with healthcare executives. For example, while Deloitte was described as one of the few firms offering clinical process redesign to help organizations achieve better outcomes, the company was also cited as delivering inconsistent consultant quality and knowledge. Several healthcare executives interviewed for the report noted that they were not pleased with the contract process and said resources did not fit their organization's needs.
Some customers complimented the work that Dell Services' consultants provided, while other customers said these consultants lacked knowledge or were not in sync with organizational needs.
Xerox, which acquired ACS' consulting business, received compliments for its ability to provide senior-level consultants; however, customers said Xerox contracting engagements are less flexible and more protracted. Furthermore, consulting services are expensive and the ability of Xerox account managers to solve problems is not as strong as those of other consulting firms.
"If one is in need of consultants, seeking them sooner rather than later could be critical to getting the right resources. Fortunately, with 45 firms and an average performance score of 87, the right resources exist, but be prepared to use multiple consulting firms," the report said.
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