3 alternative EHR selection strategies to RFPs

The EHR selection process typically follows a process in which practices seek information through RFPs, compare alternatives, and begin narrowing down a wide pool of candidates. The problems with the RFP process are well documented, prompting the request for proposals to gain the notorious title of the “request for problems” by frustrated selection teams. The problem with RFPs rests in the lack of quality information they elicit from bidders and the fact that practices often spend significant time and money resources considering RFPs in order to move forward in the selection process.  The following strategies represent alternatives to using RFPs in the selection process.

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Hands-on software trials

Tim Edlund, CEO of Softworks Group, offers the following caveat about relying heavily on RFPs as a software selection tool. He states, “RFP responses are a lot like statistics—they are easily manipulated to support whatever point their publishers want to make.” Edlund suggests using hands-on software trials to “quickly separate truth from the claim.” Just like other consumer software, EHR vendors can offer potential customers a hands-on trial that allows a practice to test first-hand how a product will function. Hands-on trials allow a practice to collect valuable information themselves, and create a shortlist from their own experiences, rather than relying on an RFP’s written claims. Using a hands-on software trial also avoids the need for the, often misleading, software demonstration by a vendor’s sales team and also eliminates the ambiguity of the RFP process.

A large quantity of brief demos

Demonstrations traditionally occur in the final stages of the selection process, however, a practice can bypass the RFP process by conducting preliminary vendor research based on a requirements list and then inviting all vendors whose product fulfills the requirements list to conduct brief demos. During these demos, the selection team should construct benchmark of criteria that would be used to narrow down to a shortlist of vendors who would then be invited to provide more lengthy and in-depth demonstrations.

Paid in-depth evaluations

Instead of requesting a large pool of vendors to submit proposals for free, which can result in unreliable information regarding product features; a practice can engage in a more direct selection process by conducting research, selecting one or two vendors, and requesting that they conduct an in-depth evaluation of the project and offer a software solution for pay. Effectively this directs funds normally spent on the RFP process to a software developer who will have a strong incentive to offer a product solution that is a good fit.

The RFP process is often carried out simply because practices wrongly assume it is an essential part of the selection process. Rather, using RFPs is just one way to collect information, and some would argue it is the least effective way to do so. The alternatives presented above offer ways to bypass the RFP process and engage in more direct and hands-on ways to collect information on vendors who can provide the best software product.

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Jeff Green

About the author…

Jeff Green, MPH, JD works as a freelance writer and consultant in the Healthcare information Technology Space.

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Jeff Green

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