Try Before You Buy: A bottom-up approach to health plan technology adoption

Mar 26, 2020

Why flipping the script enterprise software is the future of digital transformation?

Have you ever tried a piece of technology at your health plan before it was adopted by the broader organization? Think about solutions like MailChimp, Survey Monkey, Slack and Zoom. Even in our highly regulated industry, many of these tools are in place. And, more often than not, the path to adoption started with a trial by a small group of end users, without budget approval or a lot of red tape. Either by trying the entire ecosystem for a limited time, or by testing limited functionality, all for free. 

Now, you may be wondering how these consumer-facing, relatively low-cost examples apply to enterprise software, and it comes down to end users. No matter how “big” or “small” a solution, if it’s not adopted by end users, its benefits will elude your organization. In fact, end user adoption is arguably more critical to the success of broader digital transformation initiatives than edicts from the top. In McKinsey research on internal change management, they found that “when people are truly invested in change it is 30 percent more likely to stick.” 

When your health plan invests resources in new technology, increasing the odds of success holds serious appeal. One surefire way to get end users to embrace digital change is to involve them heavily in the selection process. We’ll cover the benefits in depth, but first a couple of definitions. 

Freemium and Free Trial

Modern technology vendors that offer opportunities for users to vet their solutions tend to pursue one of two paths. 



The basic solution is always free forever while more advanced features, additional users, custom configurations, high number of exports, etc. are reserved for paid plans.


Free Trial

The full solution is offered for free for a limited time. Not to be confused with sandbox demo environments, free trials enable users to input their own data and use the application as they would upon full adoption, activity that is preserved upon upgrade to a paid plan. 

No matter the path to bottom-up technology adoption, the end users and the organization are able to realize significant benefits. Let’s explore the five most important reasons to support end user trials of technology. 

Establish Trust 

Especially useful if your health plan is considering a solution provided by an unproven or unfamiliar vendor, testing what it’s like to be a client provides valuable information that you can’t get another way. During this test period, you’ll be able to answer key questions: 

  • What is the customer support experience like? 
  • How easy is it to get started with the product? 
  • Do I like working with this company and its people? 

Getting input from other clients of the vendor may predict some of your experiences, but every situation is unique. There is no substitute for firsthand knowledge. This mitigates the risk health plans take when they evaluate a SaaS technology solution through a traditional RFP process. It’s hard to take every factor into consideration, and trying to do so in one RFP will often solicit unwieldly amounts of information from a health technology vendor. Instead, trying before buying may answer unknowns, inspire better questions, and uncover hidden value. 

Prove Value 

It’s all too easy for a vendor to make claims that aren’t entirely representative of the reality. Not because we strive to be intentionally misleading – quite the opposite. Rather, vendors’ abilities to assure your specific value is limited to application data and anecdotal evidence from analogous health plansThink about how you might request a proof of concept from a vendor in a traditional technology evaluation and purchasing model. That proof of concept confirms that a solution works for organizations like yours.  

On the other hand, when a vendor offers their solution for actual use, you are able to prove that value for youIn addition to your health plan’s long list of feature/function requirements, this opportunity to explore your exact path to ROI is invaluable. As we wrote in a previous article, the benefit lies in transparency. “Lack of access to broader, contextualized data may limit your ability to see ‘big picture’ challenges you need to solve, which can strangle the potential of you and your staff members.” Trialing a solution with end users breaks down that barrier. 

How Other Industries Handle Technology Buying Decisions

Applying the Freemium concept to health plan SaaS technology may seem novel, but other industries do this regularly. Borrow these tried and true strategies from outsiders and apply them to your technology  adoption process   

  • Secure proof of concepts from multiple vendors. 
  • Ask for departmental demos – ensure the technology vendor that you are evaluating has the right expertise by narrowing your scope. 
  • Utilize a freemium environment to trial and error functionality. Follow up with your account rep to answer outstanding questions. 
  • Ask for solutioning plans to solve pressing problems, rather than broad lists of feature/functionality. Request vendor training resources, implementation specialists and product account owners be on calls with your team as you progress through the buying process  
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions – as often as needed 

Determine Usability 

If proving value is important to organization-wide goals, usability makes it more likely you will get there. Usability affects end users most acutely and, as a metric, can’t be established outside of using the product. You can measure usability with as few as 3-5 users completing a set of tasks, based on the following metrics: 

  • Success rate 
  • Time to completion 
  • Error rate 
  • Users’ subjective satisfaction 

Any product that lacks usability wastes time and energy – both the organization’s and the end users’ -so an opportunity to interact with the solution in the real-life setting is a bonus. In fact, it only behooves vendors to offer a freemium or free trial of their solution if the “product sells itself.” Meaning, intuitive solutions that are relatively simple to self-serve given a reasonable baseline of knowledge. Users are unlikely to pay for a solution they know to be substandard, given the choice. 

Move Faster 

Why is the path to adopting enterprise technology solutions so slow? Your health plan, like any large organization, can’t afford to get it wrong. The time and money that go into evaluating, selecting, implementing, training and using a new system must yield significant improvements, and proceeding deliberately should mitigate unwelcome surprises. 

But doing your due diligence doesn’t have to mean moving at a glacial pace. Hands-on access to a solution before your health plan makes a long-term commitment allows you to address concerns more quickly and authoritatively. And, should you decide to move forward with an organization-wide implementation, those early user experiences provide insights for broader adoption. Informing you of lessons learned on workflow and where to concentrate training, for instance, so you can realize ROI more quickly. 

Minimize Risk 

Organizations tend to delay taking on a new technology solution until the current pain outweighs the potential risk. These potential benefits of a low-commitment opportunity to try software before you buy it all add up to minimizing your health plan’s risk. By establishing trust in your vendor, proving solution value, and confirming usability up front, you can position yourself to avoid roadblocks and make a more informed decision. 

Additionally, delays on new technology implementations may occur if your health plan does not have adequate buy-in or designated project resources. A freemium model allows user groups to engage with the technology and become in-house SMEs ahead of a full implementation, meaning that your health plan will have knowledgeable internal resources at its disposal – a move that should make your implementation all the smoother! 


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