Anecdotes: Outside Software Consultants

Sometimes, you may not have adequate resources for a project so you will consider hiring an outside consultant.  During my career, I have used several outside consultants for projects ranging from installing a new general laboratory computer system to assisting in getting international accreditations.

Regrettably, my experience with software consultants has been mixed.  I have used them for general laboratory software installation and settings.  Very few have any experience with dedicated blood bank software or setting up hospital blood bank modules.  They are often former employees of the software vendor you are using.  There is always a potential for conflict of interest.

The software consultant must work for you, NOT for the vendor you are using.  He/she must maintain his independence from the vendor and only represent your interests.  I have had many problems with this.  Here are some of my unpleasant experiences:

Current and Future States:

One set of consultants gave essentially the following current state mapping for almost every test in our menu:

  • Order this.
  • Collect this.
  • Receive this.
  • Perform this.
  • Release this.

They did not know our current state so they were unable to help us build a proper future state.

Mapping Errors:

The consultants were in charge of exporting results from a previous system into the new one, this included mapping the results into the appropriate test fields.  They assumed it would map properly, I insisted on testing a two-week sample of laboratory results and discovered major errors that could adversely affect patient care—it was a major disaster and almost held up implementing a hospital go-live on-time.

Benefits of New Software:

The consultants were obsessed with calculating benefits of the conversion to the new software vendor and making fancy PowerPoint presentations to assure officials that they were gaining benefits.  There were many issues to resolve that were critical to the functionality that I felt the time would have been better spent in fixing the software issues than calculating alleged benefits.

The Need for Speed:

There were some consultants without any experience in blood bank who insisted that this had no bearing in making software settings.  One bragged to me that he could install a blood bank system in a few days.

Default Settings:

Some outside consultants kept pushing using the default settings.  There is no “one size fits all” solution for a large healthcare organization.  There is need for customization.  I wondered why we needed the consultants to set up default settings which is what the vendor wanted us to do anyway.