As the leader of the Synapse® VNA Client Services team, one of the most common questions I am asked by prospects, usually during the sales cycle, is “what is the average time span from project kickoff to go-live for your VNA?” When I respond with “many months,” I’m usually met with that deer-in-the-headlights look. Why do these types of projects take so long? And what are some of the common proactive measures organizations can take to help streamline the process?
After 7 years as the Director of Client Services for Synapse VNA, and with more than 30 VNA deployments under my belt, I’ve come to recognize a number of VNA deployment best practices that can help simplify implementations and smooth potential bumps in the road. Here are seven VNA deployment best practices to help accelerate your go-live:
1. Have the Right Technical Infrastructure in Place
Projects can come to a screeching halt if the appropriate server environment, network infrastructure, or storage system(s) are not in place. Ensure that these components are available right after the project kicks off to avoid any unnecessary delays.
2. Set Your Lineup
Optimize your go-live success by having the right person, with the right skill, available at the right time in the project plan. Healthcare IT staff juggle many projects simultaneously, each with competing priorities, so make sure your VNA deployment needs are on their radar well in advance. Most organizations also have an individual or group of specialists for specific elements of the IT infrastructure, such as HL7 integrations, for example. By ensuring that these specialists are available when you need them, organizations can avoid potential delays that can sideline their deployment agenda.
3. Determine the VNA Data Structure
One of the most important elements for a VNA deployment project is deciding on the system’s data structure. There is not one optimal way to organize data in a VNA. Each healthcare enterprise has its own unique objectives. While experienced project teams can offer their suggestions, it’s ultimately the organization that makes the final decision. For some, that involves obtaining input from numerous stakeholders and final approval from executive leadership, which can ultimately add months to the project. Start this conversation early so that when the time comes to make your data structure decision, you’ve already one step ahead.
4. Account for Load Balancer Configurations
Sometimes called a “content switch,” a load balancer is a physical or virtual system that controls the distribution of network traffic across two or more servers. By evenly spreading the network traffic across multiple servers, a load balancer prevents any individual server from being overloaded and improves application responsiveness. A load balancer is frequently used to control the traffic going into the VNA. In theory, this sounds like a great idea, but load balancers are complex and notoriously challenging to configure. While there are configuration recommendations, there is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Determining your specific configuration can take weeks of collaboration with your VNA provider, so make sure that this is accounted for early in your project plan.
5. Set Aside Time for System Validation
After the VNA has been installed and fully configured in your network environment, the next phase of the project requires your team to validate VNA operation in your clinical workflow. While tenured VNA providers often provide validation plans to help the organization structure its test cases and remain on standby if needed, execution of this phase of the project is the responsibility of the organization. Competing priorities can cause this phase to take much longer than anticipated, so allocating the right timeline—usually several weeks or months—is critical to keep your go-live on schedule.
6. Set and Stick to a Weekly Meeting Schedule
Weekly conference calls between the organization and VNA provider team are generally recommended to help keep the project on task. Still, project members are bound to miss meetings due to competing priorities, illness, and vacation time. This can cause critical tasks in the project plan to slip and deployment timelines to be pushed back. To help instill a sense of urgency for your VNA deployment project, try to keep this weekly cadence of meetings as consistent as possible while providing flexibility to shift the time slot by a few hours, if needed. Often, giving team members a few extra hours to complete their tasks can add up to huge time savings in the end.
7. Break the Project into Phases
Some VNA projects are very large and can easily seem overwhelming at first glance. Instead of trying to take in the full picture (or in most cases, the thousands of pictures), the project should be divided into phases that are easier to digest. For example, Phase I may include the basic installation and integration with a PACS and Enterprise Viewer. Phase II may then be the integration with the facility’s existing cardiology system, and Phase III may be the integration of non-DICOM sources, such as dermatology and wound care. While the full project may still take 2 years or more to complete, breaking down the project into phases will help inspire a sense of achievement and make the project a bit easier to manage in the months ahead.
Deploying a VNA is no easy feat and can take considerable time, even for the most efficient of organizations. By taking each of these best practices into consideration, you will be able to anticipate and maneuver around many of the most common deployment speed bumps. Looking for more VNA insights? Contact us today to be set up with one of our Synapse VNA specialists.