EHR software and EMR systems have become staples across medical practices both large and small. Powered by AI and the cloud, the market is overflowing with options, and so selecting the right EMR or EHR vendor can be a challenge. Though an EMR or EHR solution performs a variety of functions, you want one that at least complies with the Medicaid EHR incentive program and that improves your operations and patient care. It’s an important decision that will affect the efficiency and viability of your practice, so make your choice with care. To choose an EHR or EMR, the first step is to write a request for proposal (RFP), a document that gives information about you and your practice to the prospective vendors while soliciting them for information about their products and offerings. Let’s take a look at how to write an EHR RFP below.
Table of Contents
- Getting started
- Start the Request for Information (RFI)
- Internally Compile and Prioritize EHR Requirements
- Create and Send the EHR RFP
- Evaluate RFP Responses
- Request for Quotation (RFQ)
- A Recap
Using the following steps, you can craft an EHR RFP that helps you select the best-fit EHR system for your organization. Regardless of the type of EHR software you’re selecting, whether it’s an ambulatory or inpatient EHR, open-source or some other niche technology, these EHR RFP steps are all applicable.
Start the Request for Information (RFI)
Many companies, when procuring new software, choose to send out an RFI before preparing an EMR RFP. Since responding to an EMR RFP is a longer, more detailed process, using an RFI is a better way to narrow down the pool of companies whose offerings match your practice’s requirements. An RFI is more of an overview of your requirements and gives vendors a chance to share the benefits of their software with management and other decision makers. Since this is early on in the process, it’s just a getting-to-know-you phase. To get started, check out our list of EHR and EMR software vendors and the solutions they offer.
The shortlisting process starts later after the RFP is submitted. If there is uncertainty looming over your selection process, it may be an indication that your RFI may not be specific enough. Try to make your RFI focused to help vendors understand your software requirements.
In the case of EHR and EMR software, the best place to start is by assessing your needs as a business and then moving on to features that you and your teams want. Here are a few questions that you can answer to get started:
- What kind of data will the practice collect?
- Which departments will use this software and who will be the beneficiaries of the software?
- What are the key performance indicators (KPIs) for the new EHR or EMR software?
- Will the software be cloud-based, SaaS or on-premise?
- Do you need to bring a clinician aboard to help you understand the software’s specifications?
We suggest you use our EHR and EMR software requirements template to choose and prioritize your EHR and EMR software requirements. Make sure you include a list of need-to-have and good-to-have features.
After answering these questions, send out the first initial contacts for your RFI and build a pool of potential vendors. The RFI should ask for details such as the company’s history, its goals, ownership structure and more. After that, ask more technical questions.
You should also ask about the history of the product, its core offerings and version history. Just a reminder, the responses you receive from the RFI will be vague as the important details will be covered at the RFP stage.
Internally Compile and Prioritize EHR Requirements
The second step is to compile your organizational requirements in a formal document. Your requirements will be a combination of the needs of various departments and the overall needs of your business. These requirements include specific prices, you already have an estimated price for software and hardware, but now you need a summary of costs for items such as implementation, training and support. However, you may also want to consider interoperability and customization in your choices as well.
It’s important to have a critical approach to your practice and answer the following questions:
- Where will you deploy your software?
- How will it be utilized?
- Does it integrate with your existing software ecosystem?
- How do you hope the EHR or EMR will benefit your practice?
- How will the software’s benefits meet your practice objectives?
The RFP document will share your goals and give a brief introduction of your organization and your practice’s requirements. You should make a list of which clinical data systems you already have in place, and how much customization you may need. Your data and patient security is of extreme importance, so make sure to focus on your requirements in this area. Security is especially important for hospitals since they store large volumes of sensitive patient data. System scalability and functionality are also key requirements that should be mentioned in your EHR RFP. Your practice will ideally continue to grow, and you want to ensure the vendor you select has a suite that can handle that growth.
You should involve your internal stakeholders in prioritizing your electronic health records software requirements, getting everyone on the same page can help save you money and headaches down the road.
Create and Send the EHR and EMR RFP
After you’ve defined and prioritized your specific EHR solution requirements, integrate them into the EHR RFP. The RFP goes into more detail than the RFI does. It’s good to ask for product demos and request details of previous experiences and contact lists related to the vendor. Jot down the software requirements you have and be as specific as possible.
The RFP ensures vendors respond to your detailed requirements, know exactly what you need and are precise when they draw up their proposals. An RFP should include a timeline showing important deadlines for various actions by the vendor; make sure your RFP is well organized and looks professional. If need be, look-up some RFP examples or use an RFP template to get an idea of what your deliverable is.
Meanwhile, don’t forget to include a list of questions for your IT department. These technical questions are the most important questions you can ask. Since your IT department is aware of the company soliciting a new EHR and the desired features, it will be able to remove those vendors that are not compatible with your needs or your own systems. That way, you are not wasting your time or becoming lost in the glitz and glam of new software, nor is the vendor wasting their time pursuing you.
The next step is to send the RFP out to the vendors you selected in the RFI process. Keep your EHR guidelines you identified earlier — this will help you understand the replies as they relate the guidelines you set up.
Keep these points about the vendor’s EHR or EMR solutions in mind:
- Dashboards and their compatibility with your present practice management solution
- Reporting capabilities and formats
- What the software’s capabilities are
- Other important features such as interoperability and billing
Also, include as much information as possible about your organization. The more you share about your company in the RFP, the more your prospective vendors will be able to help you and the easier it will be for you to make a decision.
Now that your EHR requirements have been imported into an EHR RFP template, select a shortlist of EHR systems, and look for certifications such as HIPAA, Meaningful Use Stage 1 & 2 and MACRA.
Qualities to look for when deciding on your shortlist should include your overall impressions of their professionalism. Look for qualities such as timeliness of response and transparency during initial contact, whether the estimated costs are within your practice’s budget and what support the vendors offer. Also, be sure to check references and reviews to ensure they deliver the services they claim to.
The next step is to write a vendor proposal. The vendors who respond will share their software solution and how it can be implemented in your company. Submit the RFP to your selected vendors, and remember, if you’re lost using an RFP management tool to submit your requirements makes it easier for vendors to reply. After all, the solution should not just match your specific needs, but also be flexible enough to adjust to your future growth.
Evaluate RFP Responses
Since you are going to be dealing with numerous vendor responses to your RFP, the process of procuring software can be lengthy. This is a time-consuming process and, sadly, it cannot be automated. Choosing a vendor requires a lot of critical thinking and analysis and involves multiple exchanges between you and the vendors. Luckily, there’s software that makes this process faster.
With SelectHub’s RequirementsHub, you can auto-compute vendor responses as soon as they arrive. Analyzing EMR RFPs may be resource-intensive and lengthy, but that does mean that’s all you’ll spend your time on. SelectHub also offers a free comparison report of the top EHR and EMR software suites for those interested in looking at how top competitors stack up.
At this stage, internal stakeholders involved in drawing up your healthcare practice’s requirements should come together to evaluate EMR RFP responses. Use a standardized matrix to compare vendors, since this tool allows your team to weigh certain requirement criteria and aggregate evaluators’ scores. The matrix should include EHR usability characteristics and functions such as clinical tasking and messaging, health record management, decision support, laboratory and results management, prescriptions and charting. Also, ensure EHR vendors offer software that guarantees your practice complies with meaningful use principles.
Before selecting finalists for further evaluation, review the vendor applications to make sure you have all the necessary information, and submit any final requests for additional data needed to help you make a decision. You don’t want to pass on a potentially excellent candidate just because you don’t have sufficient data.
Request for Quotation (RFQ)
A request for quotation (RFQ) is similar to a response that says, “Thanks for sharing all the details. Now, tell me what it costs with all the bells and whistles.” An RFQ isn’t too different from an RFP; it’s sent to a small list of five or six potential vendors from your RFI phase. RFQs spell out the costs and timeframe of implementing the software. They are specific and explain your precise needs, wants and other specifications.
Your practice’s implementation plans and specific operational needs will be discussed here. Pay special attention to the budgets you decided on earlier and see if the cost of implementation is within those specifications. Once the RFQ is sent to the vendors, they will return with a price estimation, implementation plan and timeline. They might also come back with the length of their contract, support clauses and training timelines. For medical practices working with limited budgets and timeframes, this stage is very important for discovering the true price of EHR and EMR implementation.
Let your evaluation team take on-site visits, along with finalist vendors, to organizations that use relevant software and match the size and configuration of your practice. You may also request that vendors provide proof of concept to further ensure their systems are suitable for your organization. Once you’ve selected a vendor, you’ll negotiate a contract, definitive pricing and finally execute the agreed-upon contract.
An RFI is generally a very broad assessment. This stage is about exchanging information between the vendor and you. Formulating a list of needs and wants is important at this stage as it makes it easier to align vendors’ offerings to your needs. You can think of this stage as a job interview — you are meeting and evaluating many candidates in a short period of time and selecting the ones that match your interests and budget.
The RFP, on the other hand, is a tedious stage in which you ask more precise questions to the selected vendors. After narrowing the number of vendors down to three or five, send your RFQ and then finalize one that is right for you. Iron out last-minute issues that come up (there shouldn’t be many at this stage), and if you are still looking for a vendor, check out our EHR comparison report and EMR comparison report. When choosing any type of health information technology, be it an EHR, EMR or medical practice management systems, SelectHub offers a formalized request for proposal process, including expertise and support to help you select the right vendor for your practice.
Are you facing any challenges in the process of writing an RFP to finalize an EHR or EMR implementation? If so, let us know in the comments below!