3 pitfalls to avoid when hiring healthcare management consultants

With no shortage of management and other consultants competing for lucrative healthcare consulting engagements, how are healthcare leaders supposed to know which firm is the best fit and will provide the best value?

That's the topic Paul H. Keckley, Ph.D., managing director of the Navigant Center for Healthcare Research and Policy Analysis in the District of Columbia, tackled this week in his H&HN Daily column.

In addition to advice--such as interviewing the subject-matter experts on the engagement team, not the firm's senior sales leaders--Keckley offered suggestions on what to look for, and avoid, when making a hiring decision. They include:

  • Watch out for potential conflicts of interest. Insist that consulting firms disclose any relationships that could pose a conflict of interest, and exclude those whose conflicts threaten their objectivity in working for your organization.

  • Check the invoices. Require firms to specify what they consider "reasonable costs for meals and travel," and once they're hired, carefully scrutinize billings and question anything that appears out of line.

  • Look for deep industry experience. Seek out firms that can provide consultants with significant subject-matter and technical expertise, rather than "professional consultants" who focus more on sales and relationship management.

"Huge sums are spent to create powerful impressions of the firm, and mistakes or disappointing results with clients carefully concealed," Keckley cautioned. "Every firm has its share of disappointing projects, and purchasers of consulting services should probe those experiences and the key changes the firm made as a result."

As Keckley noted in his column, the range of consulting services runs the gamut, as do the size of engagements. One chief information officer recommends, for example, that radiology practices consider hiring consultants to help with security risk assessments ahead of electronic health record Meaningful Use audits.

Technical consultants also can help healthcare systems leverage the huge amounts of data they now routinely collect. With most healthcare organizations lacking dedicated analytics or business intelligence teams, many hire consultants to analyze their big data, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

For more information:
- read the H&HN Daily column

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