Three EHR RFP myths, and how to dispel them

A successful EHR selection process depends on obtaining a quality pool of vendor-applicants from which to select. One can state with certainty that a bad pool of EHR vendor applicants to select from will lead to a poor EHR experience. The selection process has traditionally been driven by a process which involves publishing an RFP inviting vendors to compete for an EHR contract. The process of putting out an RFP to solicit bids serves as the foundation for the selection process. Therefore, how practices research and obtain bids for an EHR factor greatly in obtaining quality candidates.

Despite the importance of the EHR selection process, practices often fall victim to ingrained bad practices in the selection process because they have been done inefficiently so many times that people do not consider that there might be any other way to do them. Alternatively, in other cases, practices often rely on unhelpful or outdated assumptions about RFPs. The following represent some of the more common myths that when adopted in practice can result in a flawed selection process.

1. The best candidates always submit the best EHR RFP

Often there is a tendency when reviewing RFPs to automatically exclude those that present vague information or do not present a comparatively detailed proposal. Often a lack of detail or ambiguity in an RFP is treated as a red flag to filter out a candidate.

Recommended reading: get advice on EHR RFPs and more with our step-by-step EHR selection survival guide

Yet in some cases, an EHR selection team may be well served to step back and reconsider previously eliminated suppliers at a later point in the process, particularly those proposals who may not have presented their case in the greatest detail. Often other vendors may be filtered out by the EHR RFP process by providing more concise answers rather providing 'fluff' answers.

2. It is possible to make the RFP process completely objective

By its nature, the selection process is not objective, even though selection teams may go to great lengths to create selection methodologies that weigh proposals on objective measures. In fact, larger vendors who may not always be the best fit may be skewing the RFP process by gaining an inside track based on their ability to craft effective RFP and not necessarily deliver services as effective as a smaller vendor. In a white paper published by Climax Media a Toronto-based marketing agency, outlining the pitfalls contained in the RFP process the, paper states, “The RFP process restricts your selection of suppliers to only those large enough that can hire proposal writers. That means a smaller, innovative shop would automatically be disqualified, despite its potential fit for your project.”   

3. An RFP is the only way to select an EHR

A common misconception involves the claim that everyone uses an RFP to get project proposals. Rather, practices often and successfully use personal referrals and testimonials, interview vendors one-on-one, and study their portfolio and process intensively. Although this may appear counterintuitive given the topic of this article, which may lead one to believe RFPs are the undisputed best practice to solicit EHR bids.

In fact, over the last decade, the healthcare industry has gradually moved away from RFPs in the selection process instead opting for the most in-depth process described above. This move reflects the idea that RFPs, according to a study conducted by Google, “are hardly precise indicators for supplier performance. In fact, the time project teams spent on RFPs could have been spent getting to know potential suppliers more intimately.”

Just as in any other situation, the most effective way of solving a problem is subject to myths informed by ingrained bad practices. The selection process is not an exception to this rule.

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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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