The request for information (RFI) came back from the EHR vendors you’re screening, and now, you have to wade through the information to make sure the questions you asked in the RFI, were answered fully. After weeding out the vendors that don’t meet your organization’s requirements, it’s time to move on to the request for proposal (RFP) stage. This is where you get a more concrete game plan of how you and the vendor will make a partnership work. Below is a list of important questions to put in your RFP to make sure you get a good sense of the vendor and what kinds of services they provide. Next week, I will have an insider look into what are the most important things to think before purchasing your EHR from the HCI Board.
1. System Functionality and Scalability- This one might be a no-brainer, but making sure the vendor has the system features and functionality your organization requires isn’t as simple as it sounds. You might not even think about a function you need until you see a demo of the product and realize something might be lacking. Make sure to do a complete workflow analysis before the RFP to identify the functional and technical requirements necessary for your organization. You also need a solution that has scalability and will grow with your organization.
2. Interoperability- You want to make sure the solution fits the needs of your organization and that it interoperates with current clinical information systems. Ask the vendor to spell out the groundwork that’s going to have to be laid to link all those systems so there won’t be any chaos when the vendor comes onboard.
3. Customization- If being able to customize your electronic health record is important for clinician workflow, make sure to ask that question in the RFP. Many companies won’t offer much customization, while others are more open to tailoring the product to your organization.
4. Price- There’s no denying that price is a major deciding factor to any organization. You want to get a complete summary of costs beyond the hardware and software, including support, training, implementation, and consulting. What could be key is to try what NYC Regional Electronic Adoption Center for Health (REACH), New York City’s REC, did with their compatriot New York State REC, the New York eHealth Collaborative (NYeC), and do a joint RFP to get some economies of scale and group purchasing power.
5. Customer Support- Does the vendor provide 24/7 customer support? Will the vendor do onsite support at your practice or hospital? What kind and how in-depth are training sessions?
6. Privacy and Security- Privacy and security practices are a huge concern with new stricter regulations resulting from the HITECH Act and recent revisions to HIPAA. Steven J. Fox, a partner with the Washington, D.C.-based law firm Post and Schell, PC, and an expert on legal issues regarding healthcare IT and data privacy, strongly recommends vetting vendors on their security practices, especially when data storage in a cloud is concerned.
7. Standards Compliance- This is as basic requirement, but also necessary especially if you’re considering smaller vendors. You want to make sure they adhere to the following EHR standards: ICD9/10, LOINC, CPT, SNOMED, and other nationally available medication terminology.
8. System Technical Architecture- In AHIMA’s resource library, there is a fantastic RFP template that has a very good technical section. All types of architecture questions need to be asked: like do the communication components include TCP/IP, is CCITT Group III, IV used for compression schemes, does the system support standard HL7 record formatting for all input and output, does the system support SQL for communication?
9. Meaningful Use- Does the vendor have the functionality or at least a clear plan to help your organization meet meaningful use requirements for Stage 1, as well as Stages 2 and 3?