Technology solutions are such a big investment for your healthcare organization that it can be difficult to identify when you’re ready to spend money on new software or better platforms. Once you’ve gone through the process and determined you have a need for new technology, what’s your next step? How do you pick the right vendor? Depending on your organization’s protocols, you may be required to create a Request for Proposal (RFP) to select a vendor. But even if an RFP isn’t strictly necessary, your organization can benefit from going through the process of an RFP in your search for the best vendor partner possible.
I’ve been Influence Health’s proposal writer since 2011, and during that time I’ve written nearly 200 RFPs and seen just about every possible iteration of what a healthcare RFP can be. In the process of writing proposals, I work with people across the organization, from Delivery Services to Marketing to Legal to Finance. Every department has a specific voice and specific needs, and my job is balancing those different requirements and creating a cohesive and comprehensive plan from those disparate pieces. As an insider to the RFP process, I’ve learned some tips through experience that can make a sometimes painful process go a little more smoothly.
One of the most important keys to selecting the right software vendor is executing the right RFP process for your organization. Understanding what goes into an RFP and allowing enough time for vendor selection can be critical to your success. Below are five tried-and-true keys to a successful Healthcare IT RFP with my insider tips for how to make the process less painful in each step along the way.
1. Involve the right stakeholders
First, make sure you have just one point of contact for vendors to interact with, to cut down on confusion. Then gather your key stakeholders. If you don’t have all the necessary stakeholders involved in the RFP process from the beginning, you could end up having to go back and realign steps with a more diverse set of needs. No matter if you’re creating a Patient Portal or a Healthcare CRM RFP, the end users should be heavily involved to make sure their needs are met. After all, they’ll be the ones using the technology you choose on a daily basis.
Insider tip: Key stakeholders come from a wide variety of departments. Your main contact will usually be someone from Purchasing/Supply Chain Management, with input from departments such as Legal and IT plus the main users from either Marketing or Clinical, depending on the type of technology you are interested in.
2. Identify needs
When designing the most optimal RFP for your healthcare organization, completing a needs assessment is imperative to identify the most important features for you and your team. You can weight these requests accordingly from Minimum Requirements (automatic disqualification for any vendor who doesn’t meet these) to Mandatory (weighted heavier) to Preferred and Desired (weighted less).
Insider tip: Beyond knowing your needs for new technology, be sure to outline your goals for the RFP process at the beginning. Do you hope to just narrow down your vendors to a top three? Or maybe you’re hoping the RFP will lead you to your final choice. Know your goals and what you need to achieve them, and gain consensus among your stakeholders as you begin.
3. Secure upper management buy-in and funding
Without buy-in from upper management and funding allocated in your budget, you could get all the way to the Vendor of Choice stage and still have your project shelved. Ensure these pieces are in place early to save headaches and disappointment later on.
Insider tip: Funding for technology often goes beyond the initial purchase. Depending on the model, you may have annual subscription fees after the initial implementation and setup. Or there could be maintenance and upgrade fees you need to consider down the line. Knowing fee structures and all the cost components during the RFP process can be a jumping off point for setting budgets for an organization.
4. Structure your timeline
Just like in most major decisions, timing is everything. Creating the right timetable and understanding the timing of your project is crucial. Once you secure funding, laying out an optimal timetable for implementation is your next step. Of course every project will have unforeseen delays along the way, but setting a framework for your ideal timetable as you begin can help you see potential bumps in the road and plan for how you’ll use your team’s resources throughout.
Insider tip: You want to give yourself enough runway from start to finish for an ideal timeline. In my experience, tight timelines often are rarely followed and lead to extended deadlines. Build in time to answer vendor questions and to score the responses themselves. These items are the most likely to delay the project and could put you in a bind. A good rule of thumb for the timeline is to estimate between six to seven months from releasing the RFP to finishing the contracting.
5. Select the right partner
As you go through the RFP process, having the right partner to guide you and provide appropriate sample RFPs, subject matter expertise and experience will help ensure your ultimate success.
Insider tip: While it may be hard to get all stakeholders to read the RFP responses cover-to-cover, in addition to the technical sections most pertinent to them, make sure all stakeholders read the cover letter and executive summary, which is where most vendor differentiators will be laid out altogether.
These five steps in the process for a successful Healthcare IT RFP have been implemented again and again at Influence Health. If you are interested in kicking off an RFP at your organization, we’ve built a sample RFP base to help you be prepared and expedite the process. Our sample RFPs cover the following topics:
- Enterprise Content Management System (CMS)
- Directory Listings and Reputation Management
- Enterprise Patient Portals
- Healthcare Customer Relationship Management System (CRM)
- Population Health Management Solutions
Request a sample RFP here, and one our team members will follow up to make sure you get everything you need and answer any questions you may have about the best ways to get things kicked off.