A functional imaging IT contract enhances vendor performance over the long haul
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A functional imaging IT contract enhances vendor performance over the long haul

par John W. Mitchell , Senior Correspondent
In a session near the close of the recent SIIM Conference in Aurora, Colorado, four imaging informatics managers shared tips on creating contracts for effective vendor relationships. The takeaway: a good contract should strengthen the relationship and head off any disputes.

The four experts on the panel for the session, entitled For Project Leaders: Preparing for Successful Contract Negotiations were:

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Donald Dennison (moderator), president, Don K. Dennison Solutions Inc.
Stephen Besselman, project manager, El Camino Hospital
Robert Coleman, senior director imaging informatics, Maine Medical Center
Michael Toland, PACS team manager, University of Maryland Medical Center

The interactive session took on a question and answer format. Here are some of the highlights by general topics.

Before entering into contract actions, such as an RFP or demonstrations, what are some of the things that an IT manager can do be more prepared?

Besselman: We used an outside consultant who prepared an extensive pre-screening questionnaire. We referred back to those questions during the vendor screening to make sure they could do what they said they could do.

Toland: The more info and details we can share with vendors, the better. The first thing we provided is the organization’s standard purchase agreement, so they go could through and do their redlines (proposed changes). We post our service line agreement that vendors have to live by, and we can check to see which vendors read it.

Coleman: When you enter into a contract, it’s really starting a relationship. In some cases, you’re going to be living with a vendor for years — I have some vendors I’ve been with my whole career. We use a very vigorous technical review about ten pages long.

Dennison: Remember, your general counsel doesn’t need a PACS, you do, so come up with practical thresholds. A one-sided contract won’t work for anyone. Think about the performance measures you need that will help a vendor anticipate a problem. Three common contract metrics are 1 — service uptime (planned and unplanned); 2 — the speed of the system performance and how fast and how many images can be read; 3 — the vendor response and resolution times.

What is your approach to contract details, such as the service agreement, statement of work, and cybersecurity?

Coleman: How many of us in this room have gotten a phone call from a radiologist who says, "PACS is slow today.”? We all hate those calls. So, it’s important to define success and failure in the service agreement. What is slow and how slow is the system running? There need to be penalties for lack of performance. Remember, vendors are not going to want to put real teeth in a service agreement.
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