Selecting a PACS vendor is a long process requiring a significant amount of due diligence. Unfortunately, after the research, vendor demonstrations, and analysis of lengthy RFP responses, fatigue often sets in. As a result, one of the concluding, valuable steps—the PACS site visit—is often skipped or minimized. PACS site visits, however, if planned well, can be an invaluable part of your vendor evaluation and selection process. The following are some tips on how to ensure a more valuable site visit experience.
Scheduling. Schedule your site visits before requesting RFP responses and conduct them within six weeks of receiving the responses. Also, it is best to schedule the site visits to different vendors close together. This ensures that everything remains fresh in your mind.
Location. Vendors like to take you to their “show sites.” While this is okay, it is not optimal. Ideally, you should request to see a site where you can see the system version you intend on purchasing and preferably, a site with the same integrated systems (ie, RIS, VR).
The Team. The core PACS selection team should attend the site visits. The core team generally has representation from radiologists, information systems, and radiology administration, and referring physicians. All of these stakeholders should be a part of the site visit team. The same group should visit each site.
Agenda. Take an active role in developing the site visit agenda. Be very clear about your goals. Ensure that you have time to speak with key stakeholders and to do so without the vendor present. Also, it is recommended that the agenda schedule allows members of the team to break off into their respective areas of expertise in order to optimize the time.
Pre-Visit Preparation. From the RFP, develop a checklist for each team member to use to evaluate the sites. The checklist will enable an apples-to-apples comparison. Also, prior to the visit, it is helpful to request data about the site and a network diagram of the PACS installation. This will help acquaint you with the site and provide you a reference following the visit.
Site visits can be extremely helpful. They facilitate the evaluation process by enabling you to see the product in action, allowing you to learn from others who have implemented before you, and by building consensus among the PACS selection team.