By Aine Cryts
Participation and input from stakeholders: They’re a must for healthcare leaders who want to prepare a successful request for proposal (RFP) with a vendor, Don K. Dennison, FSIIM, an 18-year medical imaging informatics veteran based in Ontario, Canada, tells AXIS Imaging News. An additional benefit of encouraging participation and input from stakeholders? It can foster teamwork, if done properly.

Dennison describes issuing an RFP as a common way to evaluate and compare the clinical, operational, technical, and financial aspects of a potential solution before the healthcare organization decides to make an investment.

One of the key benefits of the RFP process is that vendor claims and commitments are captured in writing, he adds. “This can be helpful during contracting, as well as [during preparations] for change management activities within the organization to help adoption of the solution.”

Still, he counsels that, without a balanced RFP process, vendors will often focus the discussion on their solution’s strengths. Vendors will try to avoid having a conversation about their solution’s potential weaknesses, adds Dennison.

The competitive nature of the RFP process means that healthcare leaders can secure better overall pricing, in addition to a more complete and consistent definition and scoping of a solution. Healthcare decision-makers may also receive value-added offers by vendors attempting to win the business, he tells AXIS.

Below are three tips from Dennison on developing a successful RFP with vendors.

  1. Collect and document requirements and enterprise information.

Many organizations commence their search for potential solutions before they have truly defined their needs and priorities. That’s a mistake, he says.

“Spending time to document functional and technical requirements, inventorying systems with which the new solution will need to be integrated, inventorying all affected users, and documenting workflows and use cases and data volumes, are all highly recommended. Identify any changes to the enterprise or other systems, like a change to the [EHR] system, that may affect your requirements.”

  1. Develop clear governance and processes.

A variety of skill sets are required when healthcare leaders decide to evaluate investing in a solution. During the RFP process, many stakeholders and users will need to be involved in defining requirements and evaluating solutions. Dennison advises establishing clear “decision-process gates” and decision-makers for each aspect of the process.

When defining a process, there are often significant “decision gates” or milestones defined, according to Dennison. For an RFP, that can include decisions about when the RFP is ready to publish, the appropriate vendors to invite for responses, and choosing the shortlist vendors after specific RFP activities are complete. And then there’s the ultimate decision about the vendor selected for the contract. He advises defining who’s responsible for making each of the required decisions at each process gate before starting the RFP.

It also helps to have an experienced project manager to coordinate activities among, and answer questions from, internal stakeholders and vendor staff. “A defined communication channel will keep everyone, including vendor staff, informed,” Dennison tells AXIS.

  1. Get educated about best practices and state-of-the-art industry solutions.

Soliciting feedback from peer organizations can help, Dennison advises. “Talk to peer organizations about what’s worked for them. Learn about how they structured their internal system administration and support organization. Find out about operational best practices to discover better ways of using a solution for improved outcomes. Research the types of solutions available from the industry and how they differ.”

Aine Cryts is a contributing writer for AXIS Imaging News.