Avoid mistakes when buying CM software

Hot program picks for 1998

Go to any case management or managed care conference, and the software companies take up nearly half of the vendor space. Unfortunately, too many case management software products fail to deliver on their promises.

"I have heard too many stories from case managers who purchased software only to find it didn't move through their work flow with ease," says Marcia Diane Ward, RN, CCM, market segment manager for IBM Healthcare Solutions in Atlanta. "In other cases, vendors have simply been unresponsive to case managers' need for vendor support services."

Watch out for hidden costs

In addition, case managers often fail to adequately protect themselves at contract time. "When you sign a contract with a case management software vendor, try to protect yourself from hidden costs by anticipating your future needs," she says. Ward suggests case managers avoid the following common errors when signing contracts with software vendors:

o Failure to clearly define business strategies. "Many times a vendor comes in and configures software according to case managers' specifications. A month later, after using the product for awhile, case managers begin to say, 'I wish the software could do this or that function.' The vendor agrees to make changes, but only for an additional charge," Ward says.

"This situation usually develops when case managers are not part of the original purchase decision," she says. "Case managers must be part of the process. They must have an opportunity to sit down and explain the work flow and methodologies to the vendor and their organizations' systems manager."

o Failure to provide for adequate training. "Training and education are always included in the negotiated vendor services. However, too often case management departments underestimate the time necessary to train case managers to use a new software product. You must assess the computer literacy of your case managers and allocate adequately in the vendor contract for training."

o Failure to provide for adequate vendor support. "Pay attention to the service options. If you are on the West Coast and the vendor only provides service support from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday EDT [Eastern Daylight Time], you will be left at times with a system that's down and no help to remedy the situation," Ward says. "Additional vendor support can be negotiated at contract time, and it's usually worth any additional cost."

Products that deliver

Last year, Ward compiled a list of recommended case management software vendors. Ward recently revised the list of recommended case management software products for 1998 based on reports from users and industry research. "Some of the products have failed to keep up with changes in the industry's needs," she says. "In other cases, users have reported paying a lot of money for products that fail to deliver or vendors that provide inadequate user support services."

Here's her list of recommended case management software products for 1998:

4 CCMS Core, by HBOC Payor Solutions Groups, Boston. Telephone: (617) 679-8448.

4 Care Partner, by PhyCom, Kirkland, WA. Telephone: (800) 207-0007.

4 Case Man, by Nomis, Brecksville, OH. Telephone: (800) 266-4300. "This product is best suited to independent case managers and small case management organizations," Ward says.

4 Case Trakker, by IMA Technologies, Sacramento, CA. Telephone: (800) 458-1114.

4 LamdaCorp, Chico, CA. This company offers several software modules, including a case management module. Telephone: (530) 891-0853.

4 MedAdvice, by Health Cost Consultants, Reston, VA. Telephone: (703) 262-7800.

4 Midas +, by Mids, Tucson, AZ. Telephone: (800) 737-8835.

4 Object Product, by Liaisons In Negotiating Care, Calabasas, CA. Telephone: (800) 424-LINC.

4 Wisdom, by Trinity Computer Services, Foresthill, CA. Telephone: (530) 637-4208.

Here are two good traditional utilization management systems:

4 Facets, by Erisco, New York City. Telephone: (800) 537-4726.

4 Utilization Control System, by MEDecision, Berwyn, PA. Telephone: (610) 648-0202.

These software products support special case management functions such as life care planning and workers' compensation:

4 Decision Arts, an accounting system for field case management, Paoli, PA. Telephone: (610) 296-7009.

4 EZ CAP, a physician network and capitated model product by QuadraMed (formerly Rothenberg Health Services), Woodland Hills, CA. Telephone: (818) 598-3200.

4 JobQuest, a vocational rehabilitation software product, Spokane, WA. Telephone: (800) 541-5006.

4 LPC Stat, a life care planning product by TechSolutions, Ridgeland, MS. Telephone: (800) 733-9101.

4 Return, a workers' compensation product by Health Management Technologies, Moraga, CA. Telephone: (800) 647-7007.

In addition, Automated Case Management Systems' "Case Watch" in Los Angeles offers support for social workers in the public sector. The product is geared primarily to state and federal government agencies, notes Ward.

"You must ask vendors whether their product is a stand-alone case management software product, or part of an enterprisewide system," adds Ward. "Many products are large managed care products with a case management component that cannot stand alone without the purchase of the larger managed care product."