How To Find And Vet The Right Clinical Technology Vendor

Source: Clinical Leader

In November 2019 Clinical Leader Live was proud to feature Larry Florin, president at LBF BioPharma Consulting, to discuss how clinical operations executives can Overcome The Challenges of a Clinical Technology Implementation. During the presentation, Florin covered several topics, including how to be a champion for the technology, how to determine your technology selection team, addressing your to do list, and managing enthusiasm. In this video, Florin discusses how to find and vet the right clinical technology vendor.

Click here to see the complete interview.


Ed Miseta: Once you have gathered the necessary information, you're ready to begin contacting potential suppliers. How do you recommend doing that?

Larry Florin: Not to oversimplify a complicated process, but I think there's two schools of thought that one can consider. The first is, is to take an honest assessment in terms of what you, your team, your colleagues bring to the table in terms of understanding, "What are the different market alternatives that exist?" Do you really know all the different players, both the larger ones, maybe some of the smaller, more nimble players that are coming up, that are doing something really innovative, but you haven't even had a chance to dig into that and take a look?

So, if you think you really know the space, then you can probably move right into a standard request for proposal process, but if you don't, or even if you do but you just want to make sure you're not inadvertently omitting something, maybe you just want to start doing a market assessment and really just send out a request for information. Start talking to vendors, just having informal conversations to find out what's going on. Talk to friends, colleagues, people at other organizations.

What are they thinking or what have they done? And just collecting more information to round out your own thinking, and to give yourself a more comfortable underpinning in terms of, "Okay, we're about to embark on this. We've actually made sure that we haven't inadvertently overlooked something that actually might be beneficial to our organization."

Ed Miseta: Exactly. Do consultants come into play? This certainly seems like an area where, if you're not that familiar with the technologies that are out there, it could be beneficial to reach out to somebody who knows the technologies better than you do, and who can help guide you to right solutions.

Larry Florin: Absolutely. The networks that, I'm sure, hopefully we all enjoy and have the privilege of taking advantage of are sometimes our most powerful assets, and absolutely I would take every opportunity to leverage them for the high level beginning exercise, and even for some of the more substantive nuanced questions, because there is probably a lot of experience out there that can be tapped into.

Ed Miseta: I think this brings us to the point where it's time to bring in the vendors and discuss the dynamics of that interface. You have so many great insights into those meetings and what you should be looking for in a technology partner. Let's go ahead and talk about that for a while. Who should attend? What should you stress to your team before the meetings? And what advice do you have for assessing the folks that you will be meeting with? It's a broad topic, but what kind of insights do you have there?

Larry Florin: In my opinion you've gone through, at this point, in terms of what I would think of are the typical process steps. You now have received proposals that could be very detailed in terms of describing, or at least the vendors that you're reaching out to, describing what their capabilities are. What are the pros of their product compared to others? What's on their road map?

Now you want to come in and really test that, both your understanding as well as other assumptions, and have other questions addressed. And I think a very effective way to do that is have face-to-face meetings. And so all the people on that implementation, excuse me, on that selection team and implementation team should be welcomed.

And then, you also want to make sure that the person or the team that you're interviewing, they bring their key people. Who's going to be the project manager, project director? Who are the key lieutenants that they're going to have with them? You really want them to all be there, in the room, with you.

Now, what I think you're referring to, Ed, when we spoke was that there's little strategies that I think I have sort of woven into my operating model, and others may have done even more creative things, but what I find sometimes is that I get a little bit wary, maybe that's a better way to put it, of highly polished presentations where you don't have a lot of interaction.

What I encourage, in fact, what I try to do is ask vendors, and they should be treated with absolute level of respect. They're doing a lot of work to put these together. But say to them, "Look, we want to limit the polished or the canned presentation," to some amount of time, and then have the privilege of, basically, maybe splitting the team up, so that there's not one person dominating the question. Particularly if that person is one of the key people, and they're not verbalizing too much during the meeting, but you want to get a chance to talk to them one-on-one.

You want to talk to some of their peers. You want to test if the people that are purported to be the subject matter experts really do know what they're talking about, rather than just anointing themselves with the title. So, all of these things, I think, are important. You want to also listen attentively too, because if you start getting answers that you know just don't make sense, that's a real alarm bell that should be going off to say, "Hey, wait a minute. Maybe things aren't quite as what they say they will be."

Or, if they're too agreeable... You come up with an idea. They say, "Yeah," that, "we can do that," or, "It's on our road map." I mean, these are all little tells that should give you pause. Now, that doesn't mean that if a person says, "Hey, we can't do something," that's a problem. I mean, sometimes that's refreshing to get that kind of honest, open answer.

If you get that answer both in a group setting as well as confirming this if you break up into smaller groups with, you know, break up their delivery team, or their proposal team. These are ways to verify what was said during the meeting or what was shared in a proposal. You're really getting the honest assessment of what's going on. So, little tricks, little tools, common sense, but these are just things that I know that you and I had spoken about, that you thought may be helpful to this discussion today.