Deciding on any new software is a substantial undertaking, and medical and health care education administration has complex needs to take into consideration. Schools need to find the right software to support their learners, administrators, and curriculum, not only in the day to day, but also leading them to, and through, accreditation.
Before looking at any specific software, it’s important to conduct a thorough needs analysis with your programs and education offices, and if you’re currently using a system, a gap analysis as well. This is a great time to bring in your technical leads, if you haven’t already.
Once these documents have been reviewed, your needs prioritized, and you begin searching for software vendors who might meet your needs—there are a few things you need to consider.
#1. It’s better together
To keep things simple for administrators, as well as your faculty and learners, look for a system that can fulfil your needs with a single platform and login. Whether you’re looking for procedure logs, or scheduling, evaluations, analytics, and more, look for a system that meets those needs. Additionally, look for a system that can grow with you as your needs expand and evolve.
#2. Reporting and integration
The only thing more important than data collection is reporting. Canned or preformatted reports are a crucial part of any MedEd software, ensuring your most vital data is easily accessible to your users.
Beyond the day-to-day basics, analytics is an important component of medical education. Medical schools use a number of systems to track the performance of their programs and learners. Those systems don’t talk to each other so information ends up siloed in each system, making it difficult to get a complete picture of how your program or learners are performing. Look for a system with interactive reports and dashboards powered by a data warehouse.
#3. Internal resources
There are varied levels of administrative staff required to support various systems. From a business to business (B2B) software company to open source software to homegrown systems, the number of people required can quickly increase the cost.
If you’re considering an open-source or home-grown system, you’ll need to evaluate the human resources to run – or build – the system you need.
#4. New features and enhancements
Software companies are not the experts at delivering medical education – you are. Ensure your potential vendors build responsibly by working closely with institutions and their users to ensure new features and updates truly meet their needs.
If you’re considering building your own tools, development resources are key. The most surprising thing you may learn is that even the simplest report you create in Excel may take many weeks and iterations to build within a software system. Transparently prioritizing these requests in light of available resources will be key.
#5. Flexibility and customization
Ensure the systems you’re looking at are flexible enough to meet your needs right out of the box, from building custom assessment forms to tracking your curriculum and clinical rotation schedules.
Keep an open mind when thinking about how you want to complete necessary tasks; the how may look different across systems, but the end result should still give you the results you seek.
#6. Data security and compliance
There are many specific requirements at the college or university level regarding data security and compliance. Confirm that the software you’re exploring meets your institution’s requirements. This is key information for all software decisions, especially if you’re heavily investing internal resources.
#7. User management and permissions
User management can be an onerous task, which only grows more time consuming with each learner, faculty member, and administrator who needs secure access. Look for software that can both sync with your internal personnel management systems and allow administrators with correct permissions to add additional users as required.
When considering who should be able to access what data, the software you choose should have granular permissions, especially around access to confidential assessment data.
#8. Importing previous data
Whether moving from paper or another system, consider if bringing over your previous assessment data to your new system is important.
For learners who are currently registered, there may be key longitudinal information you’d like to access in one system. Confirm if the software you’re considering can import data from other systems, and how that may integrate with reports.
Success or failure of a new software system is determined by adoption. Beyond technical specifications, implementation of a new system is key and a methodical approach to onboarding is only the beginning. Once the system is set up and your initial users are trained, what does the support look like? Do your users have timely access to knowledgeable support staff? Is in-depth documentation readily available – and easily searchable? Are there webinars and tutorials? Who will help you optimize your use of the system and ensure a high return on investment? Ask to speak to a reference customer to get a sense of the level of support you can expect to receive.
From the initial needs analysis to choosing a vendor, this process can seem incredibly daunting. But if you bring together your experts, and ask your potential software vendors the right questions, you can rest easy knowing that you’ve done your due diligence and made the right decision for your school.
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