Implementing a health risk assessment (HRA) is imperative for organizations looking to improve their population’s health. However, deciding whether to buy or build an HRA can be a bit tricky. That’s because many organizations get caught up in the thought process that building it themselves must surely be less expensive than buying it. After all, purchasing an HRA is a significant investment of your time, and will impact your program budget. But there are so many factors that go into the building process that often get overlooked.
Being in the business of health risk assessments, we know firsthand how much work is involved in building one. That’s why this post will discuss three of the biggest reasons to give purchasing an HRA serious consideration.
Personnel and Resource Costs
One of the biggest factors in whether to buy or build an HRA often comes down, quite simply, to cost. At first blush, many may think it’s less expensive to build their own HRA. After all, how difficult can it be to throw a few questions into an online survey and call it a day? However, a true HRA is far more complex than that. You have to consider everything from health standards and scientific validity of the questions, how those questions will be delivered to participants, and designing your questions to the health literacy of your population to maximize completion. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Creating an HRA often becomes a team effort, with different skillsets needed to research, compile statistics, write content, analyze data, and—of course—create the interface to administer the entire project. Finding a resource to manage the technical aspects of the HRA — for example, creating a portal for access, secure and compliant data storage standards — can be a huge barrier and quickly add up. While the cost of buying an HRA is more apparent in the vendor selection process, these hidden costs to your team resources could quickly outweigh this single purchase.
Content and Analysis Development
As we mentioned above, researching, creating, and analyzing the content and responses of an HRA is likely a job fit for an entire team. Creating the assessment isn’t as simple as just thinking up some questions. There are also responsibilities that can require a bit (or a lot) of specialization in certain fields. Do you have the in-house resources and expertise to account for:
- Delivery formats such as digital, paper, telephonic, or some combination
- User interface/design that is engaging and moves people logically through health and lifestyle questions
- Content that is useful, informative, scientifically valid, and meets any certification or regulatory standards that are applicable (and continues to meet those standards, which can often change)
- Data that is easy to collect, analyze, and integrates into other program system or tools
From there it becomes necessary to to figure out what to do with the data once it’s collected. This is where things often go awry. Creating the appropriate analytics tools and resources that make data easy to consume can be yet another fulltime job (or three). Certainly, an HRA should give an end-user a quick snapshot of their risk, but an HRA does the most good when someone reviews the data to examine trends in population health.
Of course, the entire assessment—from beginning to end—also needs to be user-friendly. For most assessments, this means that some sort of User Interface/Experience Designer will need to be on hand to digitally create an aesthetically pleasing, intuitive, and easy-to-navigate experience.
Achieving and Maintaining Certifications
The old saying goes, “if you want something done right, do it yourself”—but that isn’t always the best advice. If your organization is planning to seek accreditation from the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) or Utilization Review Accreditation Commission (URAC) then it’s most likely a much better option to buy a quality HRA from an organization that has already achieved NCQA certification from an independent agency. It’s been measured against—and passed—standards for security and privacy, evidenced-based data collection, population stratification, health education, and measurement of health outcomes.
Are you ready for the next step in exploring HRAs and whether you should buy or build? Our newest whitepaper, Health Risk Assessments: Buy or Build? A Guide for Executives and Population Health Professionals dives into the topic.