New mindset, new playbook: RIP RFP.
The request for proposal (RFP) process is a belabored and frustrating experience in searching for the right EHR. Behavioral health organizations have a lot of options to evaluate due to the availability of different business solutions to choose from, so shotgunning RFPs in the hopes that the right candidate will emerge seems like a feasible course of action for most. But going through a laundry list of feature requirements is a tremendous time sink for all parties involved, and is more likely to inspire consternation than mutual suitability. In the end, this can result in unmet business needs, lengthy implementation, and a business relationship that feels forcefully fit.
It may be hard to believe, but the days of RFPs as we know them are numbered. As you look back on your EHR purchasing experience, can you imagine it without that cumbersome process?
What lessons can be learned from the consumer technology buying experience? Modern platform technology has made unprecedented ease of access possible for the consumer. The new convenience in purchasing books, music, and software through modern sales platforms effectively disrupted the old business models.
Through modern technology the experience of the Health and Human Services industry is similarly improved. The platform gives us low-risk models to experience software. Its configurable nature means no need for feature-driven RFP checklists, less time between commitment and usage, and the ability to quickly validate the effectiveness of an application. In addition, organizations can enjoy improvements in the transparency of pricing.
The way modern technology handles feature functionality doesn’t fit the old RFP model. Questions about features are getting replaced by questions about the underlying technology and extensibility of the product. Is it built on scalable cloud architecture? Is its data model dynamic and accessible? Are warehousing and analytics built in?
EHR platforms eliminate the need to ask about specific feature sets, as their radically agile data models enable organizations to configure workflows that suit their individual needs. Without the need to walk through a feature checklist, organizations can focus on how the technology will apply and enhance their clinical and business needs instead of IT requirements.
Behavioral health organizations that deployed RFPs did so in the hopes that they would get a high level glance at how a long list of possible business solutions could fit their interests. The problem is that the RFP is so heavily controlled in the flow of information that neither the proposed vendor or prospective client has much opportunity to apply their respective expertise in a meaningful way. This removes a lot of potential value from any resulting business relationships.
Organizations are finding success in observing a more collaborative approach to sales. Consultants and referral sources that have been in the business long enough to have an established network are excellent resources for finding the right vendor. During the sales process, internal and external collaboration promotes mutual understanding of needs and identifies suitability between vendor and customer. Most importantly, perhaps, it allows the organization to know what the offering does beyond the sales pitch.
The advent of transformative technologies has already disrupted several legacy business models. RFPs represent an incumbent strategy for EHR procurement, which will undoubtedly be pushed to the wayside as organizations begin to enjoy the new conveniences that modern technology provides.