KLAS: IT advisory service firms ranked

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Several advisory technology service firms garnered high marks among respondents surveyed in a new KLAS report, but where they differed could be the deciding factor for hospitals seeking to contract with an IT firm.

The report, Advisory Services: Navigating the Maze of Performance and Choice, evaluated more than 15 technology service firms and ranked them based on their performance. Researchers considered services by compiling data gathered from websites, healthcare industry reports, interviews with healthcare provider executives and managers, and interviews with vendors and consultant organizations, according to the Orem, Utah-based firm.

“There is really tight scoring, but across the spread of the 15 firms ranked, it’s a big spread. From firm to firm, it’s only a couple of points,” report author Lorin Bird said in an interview.

Findings for Accenture, ACS, AspenAdvisors, Cerner, Courtyard Group, CSC, CTGHS, Dell, Deloitte, Encore, Hayes Management, IBM, Impact Advisors, Kurt Salmon and PwC are shared in Navigating the Maze. The report rates nine services: clinical transformation, gap analysis, infrastructure planning, IT assessment, IT strategy/planning, pre-implementation planning, readiness assessment, revenue cycle assessment and vendor selection.

While some of the top-ranked firms are more specialized in IT assessment, the KLAS total performance scores were based on multiple factors.

Impact Advisors proved the overall winner in the report, scoring 94 percent, closely followed by Encore. Others scoring above 90 percent were Dell Services, Kurt Salmon, Aspen Advisors and PwC. KLAS found the greatest varieties of choice in strategy, IT assessment, and vendor selection, among those they evaluated. The strategy work of Aspen Advisors, Encore, IBM, Impact Advisors and PricewaterhouseCoopers, for example, was rated above 90, according to the report, with no firms scoring below an 80.

While one firm may have scored higher overall, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are the best pick for a specific service, Bird explained. “Some firms do a very wide breadth of services,” he said. “Overall, outside of Dell, the top five or six firms are actually specialty advisor services – the thinking work. They’re really coming in providing high quality gap analysis or IT assessments. The middle or the bottom of the pack is really more full-service.”

The high scores of all of the firms are not typical, added Bird. “It is kind of unusual. However, we were able, through the report, to identify some very clear differences,” he said.

Among some differentiating factors of the ranked firms was IT strategy, IT assessment and vendor selection, according to Bird.

Another important difference was cost. The price of firms’ services ranged from $50,000 to $500,000. However, price was often determined by the size and scope of a project, Bird added. For smaller hospitals seeking services, the obvious choice may be to select a smaller firm, and despite their size, some of the smaller firms are delivering high quality services. That can partly be attributed to mergers over the past couple of years, Bird said.

“The reason some of these smaller firms are hitting the ball out of the park is because they’re providing really high-level talent that came from these higher firms,” said Bird.

According to the report, demand for advisory services remains strong as new regulations, payment models and care delivery schemas remain on the horizon. Many providers are wondering how they will keep up with new models and are looking to IT service firms for direction.

Bird said the KLAS report involved nearly four months of research, interviews on senior hospital officials and a deep survey pool. The report is a compilation of raw data based on client rankings—whose information is anonymous in the study—given their experience with the firms, according to Bird.

“There were 200 plus interviews across almost all 50 states, providing a really good survey pool to analyze performance, cost, and all sorts of different variables,” said Bird.

The report is available for purchase on the KLAS website.