3M Commentary

What’s the high point of client contracting?

December 17, 2020

I recently embarked on a new kind of adventure during this COVID-19 pandemic that has provided me with extra time to think about our state client’s contract experience. After being challenged by a friend to hit up as many high points or state highest peaks as possible, I have had a lot more “unplugged” time lately. I used the time to connect contracting conversations with the Medicaid or Health departments in states I visited. The high points are not all out of the way locations or peaks the size of Mount Everest; some are located at a mere 478 feet above sea level, while others are 6,684 feet above sea level. So, during this time of social distancing, I set off on the journey, van packed with hiking and camping supplies for a few days, my trusty side-kick Nala and lots of maps. Whether ascending via hiking or driving, my thoughts often turned to the folks who first discovered these high points. While I enjoyed the pleasure of that “simple” drive—sometimes a curvy 7 mile drive up the gravel road, or a 25 mile ride up a paved but switch-back, view-laden park road—I realized that someone must have first hiked all of these trails on foot, over brush and rocks and in all sorts of weather conditions. I couldn’t help but think how obstacles like these are somewhat similar to the obstacles faced in the state contracting process. 

I know this seems like a stretch, but honestly, state processes involve a myriad of paths and unforeseen obstacles from both sides with guides to get us back on track. From the state’s perspective, there are legislative measures to ensure all vendors are treated fairly and that the products being licensed are procured impartially and that the software has been budgeted for properly. Both sides require that purchase orders match the contract schedule and that data security rules are agreed to. The terms that take us off course for longer periods of time than we plan for can involve warranty and indemnifications or limitations of liability. Many detours may lead us astray, but we stay focused on the adoption of our methodologies in a payment system or program reform. So, we keep marching on and continue to head to the summit.

3M’s strained resources these days do make the contracting process feel like climbing a mountain. Will the contract process ever be conquered? As long as we stay focused with the end goal of providing the client with the best tools in the industry to enable them to make a difference for their populations, we should be able to navigate the bumpy trails and sometimes long journey. It is possible to get to a mutual agreement by staying focused on the high point—a finalized contract and introduction of consistent quality and payment measures for their residents. Client contracting can take months of negotiations and with anticipatory planning for their fiscal year, their IT licensing requirements and the regulatory reporting needs, we can structure the contract timelines and protect 3M’s intellectual property as well as promoting and encouraging compliant use of 3M HIS methodologies. 

State contracting with 3M HIS involves knowing which individuals at the state level to work with to facilitate contracting (we don’t want to get the code developers talking terms and conditions), preparing the “tools,” like having a first draft of a contract ready (a bit challenging to discuss specific terms if you don’t have a contract ready for client review), plotting time frames for all teams for review as well as allotting extra time for attorney assessments and ultimate landing in the Attorney General’s office for final review. There is a huge wave of relief when final signatures are acquired and, while that is considered the summit of negotiating, we still must get to the end of the trail to finalize access to the software. We finalize these contracts using purchase orders, when various 3M business systems enter the executed agreements and various activities are set into motion: document storage, access to the client sites is enabled and invoice and billings are created.  

Just as some high points are easy to get to, others require more technical planning and execution, a good sense of humor and patience, especially when plans don’t always go as expected (like a flat tire at 9:30 pm on top of one last peak).  As one waits for assistance, it is good to reflect on the people that helped make the journey to the top achievable.  We are so thankful for the client teams that shepherd the agreements through their governmental trails and to our 3M HIS contracting and legal teams as we all push to the finish of another state high point! 

{To date, Leah has conquered 14 high points since Memorial Day: PA, MD, WV, DE, NJ, CT, RI, MA, VT, NC, SC, GA, ME and DC with even more state contracts already successfully renegotiated.}

Leah Giordano is the Key Account Manager for Regulatory and Government Affairs Team at 3M Health Information Systems.