Wilco Blog

Transforming Patient Engagement: When to Build In-house vs. Outsource

Healthcare leaders are facing a dynamic landscape that requires them to evaluate and deploy new models of care while simultaneously managing the health of diverse, expanding populations in a scalable way that drives improved business outcomes. And success in each area correlates with how well providers engage their patients.

As a result, patient engagement software has taken center stage to effectively deliver personalized, intuitive patient experiences that foster emotional connections, and improve comprehension and retention. And patients are welcoming this shift: They are taking an increasingly active role in their health care and becoming more accustomed to personalized experiences across all aspects of their lives.

However, with a continually evolving healthcare landscape that includes shifts in patients’ needs and frequently changing stakeholders within patients’ care continuums, it’s imperative that patient engagement platforms progress and scale alongside the organization’s needs.

Yes, solution selection is a big part of the equation but, before diving in headfirst, remember patient engagement requires a strategy that starts with identifying the best business model for developing and deploying a system. Organization leaders must weigh whether to take an in-house or third-party approach to their solution, and each path has its own set of considerations.


Develop a program and platform entirely in-house

As healthcare leaders look to invest in end-to-end patient engagement solutions, some are considering an internal platform that manages the entire program in-house — including building out the technology and owning all associated business operations.

This path forces healthcare organizations to focus their time and investments on building individual capabilities while keeping pace with healthcare consumers’ evolving demands. It’s an enormous undertaking that requires full-time developers or contractors who will build out the platform as well as a properly staffed IT department to maintain ongoing operations.

From a technical aspect, development requires the new platform to integrate with other systems, such as EHRs or EMRs, patient portals, and prescription software. This often leads to significant issues, including a lack of interoperability, rigid structure, and control over software and data sharing. Ultimately, the burden of change and in-house implementation can come with considerable costs.


Use the expertise and ecosystem of a third-party vendor

With this approach, healthcare organizations use a mix of outsourced and in-house resources. For example, a third-party vendor may design a healthy, scalable technology platform while the organization then manages business operations in-house. This method allows healthcare organizations to invest strategically in patient engagement and make thoughtful decisions about which functions to keep in-house and which to outsource.

Additionally, external, widely integrated platforms continually update features and functionality that are core to the platform, accommodating both technological changes and a shifting healthcare landscape. Improvements are iterative and responsive, translating to fewer internal resources to keep patient engagement platforms current and compliant.

Third-party vendors also offer the value of a partner ecosystem. For example, Salesforce Health Cloud is connected to a network of companies that strive to solve patient engagement challenges like interoperability within healthcare organizations and deliver the best, most holistic patient experience over the long term. This type of established framework, combined with an organization’s customized approach, brings together the key players involved in the process.


A few considerations

Before deciding which route is best, there are a few considerations to make. For example, what are the organization’s goals? If the value of developing and owning a platform is high, then in-house development might be the best option. If lower overhead, flexibility, and scalability are key factors, then a third-party vendor is the better route.

Organization leaders also need to think about budget, timeline, available resources, and expertise when making their decision. Because even after resources are hired and onboarded, a solution still needs to be designed. With that in mind, in-house development may be a suitable option for organizations with big budgets and long timelines.

However, if recruiting and onboarding the right technical talent will take too long or if budgets are limited, then a third-party vendor may be ideal. This method offers organizations the ability to implement a solution that is built with an existing, specialized, and proven healthcare platform. Doing so significantly reduces the barriers to entry, timeframes, and risks associated with implementation.

Other factors also impact which approach will produce the most successful engagement system, including a platform’s basic functionality, advanced features, and a need for compliance and API integrations.

As patient engagement technology progresses, the time and financial gap between using an in-house approach versus hiring a third-party managed service provider (MSP) grows wider. As platforms are becoming more refined for providing faster and better service, the need for highly experienced, flexible resources becomes exponentially greater, especially as patient engagement and value-based healthcare models continue to call for coherent end-to-end patient experiences. Ultimately, organization leaders need to establish the best patient engagement strategy for their operations while laying the foundation for outcome-based care.