To Build or Buy Your Tech Stack?

To Build or Buy Your Tech Stack? Medical CIOs, There’s a Clear Answer.

In my down time, what little there is of it, I’ve been working on perfecting a dairy-free, gluten-free bread recipe.

Why, you might reasonably ask, would a resident of San Francisco – which is almost certainly comparatively overloaded with dairy-free, gluten-free carb options – double down on doing this herself? It’s the same question I have when I hear CIOs of hospitals, major clinics, and other healthcare organizations building their own tech stacks. Why? Why do this when someone else has almost certainly done it for you – faster, better, and frequently even cheaper?

In my case, the answer is simple: I just really love to bake (and, yes, I’ll cop to being a bit stubborn). But do these organizations actually need to create their own custom software solutions? Can they do it better? And does expending the resources to do so typically make sense? No, no and no. And neither is my homemade gluten-free creation.

There is an excellent case to be made for buying healthcare software (and here it is).

Your competencies probably don’t include expert software development 

That’s totally fine. I would argue they shouldn’t necessarily include software development expertise devoted to building something from scratch (sure, they need to be on staff but for elements that tie technical solutions together and focus on patient care, outcomes and metrics). After all, when you need to send a text, you’re not going to reinvent the iPhone. When you need to hang a picture, you’re not going to forge your own hammer and nails. You simply pick up the tool you need to get the job done and do it. It’s no different here.

And for most healthcare organizations, the job these days must center on patient acquisition, improving quality of care, enhancing patient outcomes, and achieving higher engagement and satisfaction. With such worthy – and, frankly, challenging – goals, why add anything else to your plate? Every additional complex project takes away energy, resources and support from your true focus: patients.

It always takes more than you think it will

Any big endeavor always comes with great unknowns, those snakes in the grass that reveal themselves at the worst possible moment. It’s like building a house; there’s always one more surprise that requires additional investment of cash, time or human effort (sometimes all three). 

If a healthcare organization wants to create a care management platform, it’s not as simple as thinking about just making sure all the information about a patient is in one easily accessible place. It’s also about ensuring the technical flexibility to, say, layer in integrations like scheduling, video conferencing, text messaging, notes, etc. Imagine, for example, being a client of ours that is onboarding care teams at scale nationwide – approximately 50 per week – that each need to be credentialed (with different requirements) before accessing the platform. That’s a lot to handle on your own. 

Layer on SOC2 compliance with payers’ and insurance security reviews that you’ll need to take on annually, that’s a full time effort to maintain.

Inevitably, there’s never a straight path to bringing even the most straightforward ideas to fruition. But that’s often less true for technical experts whose sole job it is to create software for healthcare organizations. Because they do this all the time, the unknowns are fewer, the so-called snakes in the grass less poisonous. Technical experts can anticipate needs based on past experience. They know the questions to ask customers upfront to uncover every likely use case, which substantially decreases the likelihood of delays from new and urgent capabilities that pop up and – all of a sudden – must be integrated immediately.

There are more options now than ever before

There was a time when healthcare organizations didn’t have a ton of choice in the market. Even just a few years ago, back in 2015, the slate of options wasn’t impressive. At that time, it was easy to justify taking software development in house, especially when you knew the solution you could create was as good or better than what was out there.

That simply isn’t true any longer. In 2021 alone, there was nearly $30B in digital health investments. As a result, there are some really excellent software solutions out there – from highly specialized niche options to care management platforms that can be customized to your needs and ensure that all involved in patient care have access to elements like the same information, charting, real-time alerting and escalations, modern and secure patient communications methods, prescriptions and test results, and more. 

The bottom line

You can’t outrun the hundreds of companies that specialize all day, every day in working hand-in-glove with healthcare clients just like you to ensure their software does what it intends to do. And because there is no shortage of rivals, these companies are incentivized to provide quality at a competitive rate. You’ll get a good solution at a reasonable cost. So why not take the plunge? 

Ultimately, the healthcare landscape is a challenging one for the industry’s executive leaders to navigate. Payments and reimbursements remain a hot button issue as the demand for care rises and the available trained staff shrinks. The industry as a whole would benefit from leveraging really good technical solutions that are so seamless, they feel like the best version of invisible infrastructure: behind-the-scenes support so strong, reliable and high performance that organizations are bolstered every step of the way. By freeing up time on elements like test result escalations and patient success, these software solutions act as critical enablers for their healthcare customers who can now turn their attention elsewhere.

It’s precisely in this way that healthcare organizations can keep their focus where it matters most: on patient acquisition, outcomes, and satisfaction. 


About the Author: 

Michelle Pampin is the CEO of Welkin Health, a Care Management platform focused on improving health outcomes for people living with chronic diseases. Michelle is an accomplished leader, with a track record of advancing high-growth Silicon Valley software companies. Michelle speaks three languages: Spanish, French and Portuguese. When she’s not busy leading Welkin, she is busy staying active with her Samoyed, Avi.


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