Build vs Buy Platforms – Which is Right for You?

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Considerations for build vs buy platforms

Balancing your company’s immediate needs with long-term growth is a complex decision-making process that affects all levels of an organization. When it comes to deciding between build vs buy platforms, your need to do a thorough analysis beyond a simple exercise in cost comparisons – a factor that is important, yet often miscalculated.

The criteria actually have less to do with saving money and much more to do with the results, such as:

  • 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?

Common pitfalls in trying to go homegrown

In two decades of member engagement experience, we’ve observed some of the common pitfalls experienced in most debates on build vs buy platforms.

Time to value comparison

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.

Security considerations

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/resource ratio

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.

Experience shows

It may initially seem attractive to embark on an internally built custom platform, but the fact is, other solutions are already in place.

To get the functionality, efficiency and speed-to-market needed in today’s world, it’s almost always better to go with a templated platform. While it may look like an impressive portal from the outside, it can be nearly impossible to operate internally, or scale to meet growing business needs. In these cases, the internally developed platform has already failed.



About the Author
Win Norton, CTO for Healthx, has over 20 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.