By Laura Kolkman, RN, MS, FHIMSS, and Bob Brown
In this series of monthly articles – based in part on their award winning book – the authors discuss current HIE-related events and leading practices within the context of forming an HIE organization in your state, region or community. This is Part 16 of the series. You can access previous HIE Formation installments at HIELights’ archives.
This month we’ll discuss when, and how, you’ll prepare and release your Request for Proposal (RFP) for the technology services to support your HIE. If you’ve followed the advice in our book you’ve already built the solid organizational foundation needed to support the issuance of your RFP.
It’s only after you’ve selected a service model for the required technology and developed a high level technical architecture – both of which should be based on the services you’ll be offering to your stakeholders – that you should prepare your technology RFP. The maturity of your organization’s business planning and governance functions must be such that there is available funding and enough resources for the required ongoing support. Don’t be tempted to issue the RFP too early or you’ll likely have to do it all over again. Nobody’s happy when that happens.
The process of researching potential vendors will give you an opportunity to validate that you have a clear understanding of the technology strategy, technology options and framework that you will use to support your business and service model. This level of understanding is important because it will prevent what we refer to as “drift” into vendor-proposed solutions that may not be appropriate to your specific needs.
There are many guides to preparing an RFP for information technology services. In our book, we recommend that the following sections be included in an RFP for a health information exchange organization:
- Administrative information
- Background of organization and the project
- Instructions to vendors
- Project requirements and vendor response
- Cost proposal
- Vendor profile information
- Vendor references
- Terms of contract
Providing as much detail as you can without over-specifying the product will save you time and aggravation when you evaluate the proposals you receive.
As you’re preparing your RFP, you’ll also need to prepare the process and criteria by which you’ll assess the responses you receive. Typically, you will construct a decision criteria tool, often in the form of a spreadsheet that allows you to assign different weights to factors based on importance. You will use the tool to enter vendor responses so they can be calculated, compared and contrasted. We recommend sharing the weighting factors with the vendors.
Once you’ve selected the subset of the vendors whose responses are viewed as the most appropriate for your HIE, you’ll set up demonstrations. We recommend including representative use cases so that there is a degree of commonality across the demonstrations. This will help your team see how the individual vendor’s products operate and will be a help in the evaluations.
Once your team has selected the leading candidate it’s time to enter the contract negotiation stage. Make sure the representations made in the vendor’s response to your HIE are incorporated into the contract.
Laura Kolkman, RN, MS, FHIMSS is the President of Mosaica Partners and Bob Brown is the VP of Professional Services. Their book—The Health Information Exchange Formation Guide—was published by HIMSS in February 2011, and was recently named the HIMSS Book of the Year. View the HIMSS’ companion web site to read chapter summaries and download select tables, figures, illustrations and checklists.