Vendors disagree over best solution

Thursday, May 31, 2007

CHESTNUT RIDGE, N.Y. - A philosophical divide has opened among vendors of business software for home medical equipment providers. The issue: Are providers, in an effort to acquire the best-of-the-best, better served by mixing and matching business software from different companies? Or should the prudent provider deal with one vendor who offers a turnkey solution, generally for less money.
The answer: It depends on whom you ask.
In April, MedForce Technologies, which offers a paperless office solution, and business software vendor QS/1 announced a business partnership. Through a near "seamless" interface, HME providers can now incorporate MedForce's document imaging program with QS/1's SystemOne business software.
"We've been trying to do this with everyone since day 1," said MedForce President Ester Apter. "In the old days, the approach was that you created everything within your own software and put the golden handcuffs on the customer so they couldn't go elsewhere.
"The new approach is that you create as open an architecture as you can so that customers can choose the best-of-the-best or the most efficient operating product for their environment," she said.
Apter added that MedForce has another partnership like the one with QS/1 in the works.
Spencer Kay, president of HME software vendor Fastrack Healthcare Systems, disagrees with Apter for a number of reasons. First, it's usually less expensive to deal with one vendor than several. When problems arise, the provider makes just one customer service call--not multiple. Additionally, a turnkey solution works more efficiently than a mix-and-match configuration, Kay said.
"It's not to say it doesn't work, but there are drawbacks," he said. "Ultimately, one vendor is the way to go and it is happening in every industry, not just health care."
Unlike Kay, QS/1 officials believe wholeheartedly in integrating different high-quality systems. In fact, in addition to MedForce, QS/1 also interfaces with two other leading document-imaging companies: Remit Data and DocuTrack, said Dan Gerst, the company's marketing manager.
"I think Ester's point of using the best-of-the-best is a very good thing," Gerst said. "The benefit is that it provides our customers with a more robust solution. There is an ease of use to having a single source vendor. But having the best vendor, as long as the systems interface well together, certainly is a good solution."