Is KLAS and Its “Awards” Even Relevant to Healthcare Leaders?

Does KLAS really matter? Do healthcare leaders really care about the organization and its award program, “Best in KLAS”?

Those that win the designation seem to think it important, but those with more important tasks than awards seem to think KLAS is nothing more than a cryptic, highly profitable money making marketing program.

Those that support of KLAS include Brent Lang, CEO and president of Vocera – this year’s best in KLAS for excellence in healthcare communication.  He’s not alone, and clearly there are thousands of caregivers and IT decision makers who believe its research is sound and valid.

So, other than offering nice plaques, according to Lang, KLAS is relevant to today’s healthcare industry because “there is a sea of new technologies available and providers need help from other providers to navigate the landscape. KLAS data reports represent the combined opinions of actual people working in the healthcare industry, and gaining insight into firsthand experiences from end users is the most valuable form of research that a hospital can get prior to making a purchasing decision.”

However true that statement may be, it gives the impression that KLAS is collecting information from a representative sample size that represents the opinions of the entire population, which is not the case. The reports that KLAS issues, and charges vendors many tens of thousands to access (but gives away freely to healthcare professionals), represents an extremely small portion of the actual user body.

From the feedback collected, there is simply no way that the views and opinions of 20, 30 or 40 (or even six or seven, for that matter) people represent the views of thousands and thousands of other professionals, especially when there are hundreds of thousands using particular systems.

The problem with KLAS’ data is that there is not enough to substantiate the organization’s research. I’ve seen the reports and spoken to numerous research professionals who say the reports KLAS produces are thin, veiled and the information included in them essentially useless.

Do providers and hospitals really care about the award KLAS presents and positions as the height of quality for health IT and the like? According to Lang: “My conversations with Vocera customers indicate that they most certainly care about non-biased research. KLAS ‘awards’ are just a culmination of research based on interviews with actual customers that are unfiltered by the vendors involved, making this information invaluable to those making purchasing decisions. Hospitals really care about the experiences of their peer group, and KLAS provides a straightforward way for them to gain access to thousands of provider opinions in one place.”

As true as this may be, again, there simply is not enough data from enough respondents to substantiate claims that KLAS makes and represents as market sentiment.

As such, KLAS is nothing more than one of the most effective pay-for-play schemes in healthcare. Practice and hospital leaders believe they are getting true research results that parallel the likes of reports such as Gartner and Forrester, but they are not. They are getting thinly veiled aggregations of quotes from very few select sources using vendors’ solutions. Not enough to quantify landscape statements about technology or solutions produced by the vendors.

How do you feel about the pay-for-play element of KLAS? Lang isn’t bothered by it: “Vocera views KLAS’ model as paid research that offers a cost effective way to gain valuable customer insights. We could go out and conduct this research on our own, but having an independent third party conduct the research makes it more meaningful and unbiased. KLAS ensures that we are hearing both the good and the bad from our end users. KLAS’ mandate is to serve providers, and not vendors, and as such, regularly reviews vendors who have not paid them any fees. Even when providers like Vocera do pay KLAS, we simply support the accumulation of unbiased research.”

KLAS holds participating vendors hostage and their “research” is incomplete and inconclusive. It is a marketing body that picks out vendors, speaks to very few of its clients and passes its research off as representative of market segment. Those that do not pay are held at a disadvantage. Vendors such as Allscripts recently expressed similar opinions to those here and decline to pay KLAS fees to participate in its programs.

Too bad other vendors didn’t begin to take the same perspective rather than being held hostage for data that is not even relevant.

But there are others that believe KLAS’ perceived value is questionable:

According to Kristin Warner, director of marketing and communications of veEDIS Clinica Systems, “I think KLAS awards would mean more in the industry if they didn’t originate from a paid marketing program. Honestly, I think the seal makes a product or website look more credible in a brief scan, but for people who know the paid structure of the site the endorsement doesn’t mean much.”

I couldn’t agree more. Based on my experience, KLAS is nothing more than a paid program, funded by vendors who are twisted into purchasing faulty and thinly veiled reports that are passed off “complete” to physicians and healthcare leaders seeking every ounce of information before they invest their dollars in systems that will make them profitable and produce better patient outcomes.

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