I’ve been dedicated to the behavioral health market for over 25 years and I’ve probably worked on over 1,000 requests for proposals (better known as RFPs) for electronic health records. Because of this, I’ve pretty much seen it all. Long lists of questions, scenario-based responses, pricing-based responses, some that look like they took months to put together, and many that have hundreds of line items in an Excel spreadsheet. Who doesn’t love reviewing and answering a good old-fashioned functionality matrix?
As more and more technology companies enter the behavioral health space, provider organizations will need to be increasingly diligent when choosing new technology. Here are 5 things your organization needs to consider during the software procurement process.
Staff to client ratio
Ask for the ratio of employees against the number of customers working in a “live” environment. Request an explanation of the numbers. Is it because they need a lot of help in maintaining the application? Have they automated a lot of functionality, and there is a ton of online user help? Is the system preconfigured to a certain extent? Listen intently.
R & D priorities, not dollars
Get a detailed look at the work that has been done over the last 24 months and what is scheduled for the next 24 months. Why is it important? Why is it on the road map? Have there been delays? What goals and advantages have specific clients gotten out of their enhancements? For a deeper look into road map development please take a listen to this podcast I reviewed. Product Road Maps using the Jobs To Be Done framework
How many staff work on the support and account management team? What is the ratio to clients they are supporting? How is the Service Level Agreement (SLA) set up? How can you contact support? When do you move to this team, and how do they verify success in meeting SLA requirements? Request to see the data!
All organizations should have an exact step-by-step process and outcomes that will be met for each stage. I also highly recommend a careful analysis of the list of functionality that is not included in the implementation process. No one ever wants to be caught in the “I thought that was included” gap. For a deeper understanding: Effects of Electronic Health Record Implementation and Barriers to Adoption and Use
Always review the contracting process with two organizations. A lot can come out during this process as you compare the two side by side. You need to get a full understanding of the legal liabilities, warranties, service level agreements and guarantees put forth.
My last piece of advice isn’t about what to look for, but your mindset. Do not try to outsource this process. Key members of your organization need to be involved in this process from beginning to end including the contracting process. This is a great experience for both front-line workers and seasoned executive staff. Be involved in the demonstrations, be involved in the contract reviews, be involved in all parts of the process. You will not regret this diligence.
When you are signing a contract you are signing a contract with an organization. But more importantly, you are signing a contract with a number of real people. Attempt to understand what makes them tick. Why are they talking to you? Why do they feel they are the best fit for your particular organization? People matter.
Are you in the process of procuring new software or first looking to optimize your current system and need additional strategic insight?