Build vs. Buy Platforms: The common pitfalls of trying to go homegrown
In fact, the criteria have less to do with saving money and much more to do with the results. What are you looking to accomplish? What are the resources required for a great job? What would it take for you to develop them – or continue to fund them – and how could that same resource be put to work to drive other critical projects forward? Below are some of the common pitfalls we have observed in our nearly 20 years of member engagement experience.
Time to value
If your business is like most health plans or third party administrators (TPAs), it is a dynamic, evolving organization. So it makes senses for your technology to adapt and grow with your company and not remain static. As your business needs change and as the healthcare industry evolves, being able to quickly shift technology strategies can mean the difference between market dominance and obsolescence. Let’s equate it to building your own car. You want the most cutting-edge, state-of-the-art car built to your unique tastes and standards. The car manufacturer gives you a quote of 24 months to meet all your requirements. Two years later – and before you’ve actually been able to drive your expensive, customized, speed-machine – it’s already old news. There are smarter, faster innovations on the market, and the public’s standard has already been raised. If you want to go the custom route, it is nearly impossible to gather all your market’s requirements, launch, and adjust them before those requirements have already evolved. The time it takes to deliver perceived value greatly depreciates the actual value delivered because custom can never be as fast as flexible templates.
Platform as a Service (PaaS) vendors make a name for themselves by investing heavily in top-tier security. The multiple-customer model affords the most secure cloud platforms because a large investment in security is easily justified when it affects every single one of your supported customers. Even the largest health plans can’t boast the same protection. There’s simply never enough energy or resources to put the amount of ongoing testing needed to prevent the newest forms of attacks, as demonstrated by the steady stream of hospital and network ransomware hacks this year. It’s not going to slow down until these systems are updated to secure cloud networks and protected on an ongoing basis. Personal health, financial information and even life and death are on the line for compromised networks, making it a growing priority for the most successful health plans in 2017.
Risk and resources
If you are still intent on building your own custom platform, you must first hire a stellar software development team that has unique and comprehensive experience in medical technology. This is extremely difficult as there are a limited number of these highly skilled resources for hire, and chances are your internal team has enough on their plate. It’s not uncommon for Chief Medical Officers, Chief Architects, and data personnel to be ferried across the country on a weekly basis to support these roles, as the most qualified ones are in extremely high demand. Creating large builds without a clear path for success, or operating on a “guess and check” form of innovation isn’t acceptable simply because there is too much on the line. Gathering the human resource needed to execute on these big builds often have one way for it to go right, and many for it to go wrong.
In the end, while feeling the need to internally build a custom platform may seem attractive, the fact is there are others solutions that have already figured it out. In order to get the functionality, efficiency and speed-to-market needed in today’s world, its almost always better to go with buy vs build. It may look like an impressive portal from the outside (if you’re lucky), but if it’s near impossible to operate internally, or worse, doesn’t scale to growing business needs, the platform has already failed. From our experience, it’s a recipe for failure to expect an internal team to build in one year what a PaaS company has been perfecting for twenty.
Win has over twenty years’ experience in healthcare technology and is one of the founders of Healthx. Win is the leading technical innovator of Healthx cloud-based solutions, where he conceptualized cloud-based computing for the healthcare payer industry before it was popularized.