How do we conduct a vendor assessment?
Rural providers should approach vendor assessments as an opportunity to determine how their institutions' distinct features will be influenced and impacted by the addition of technology. Health care providers have many decisions to make regarding what health IT features they wish to implement: practice management, computerized physician order entry (CPOE), electronic health records, e-prescribing tools and many more. They also need to choose a vendor to provide them with this technology.
Selecting a vendor that best fits a rural setting requires familiarity with the company's reputation, the types of providers and market it typically serves and the extent of IT support its staff will provide post-implementation. There are several vendors that are committed to providing services for small and rural clinics with less than 10 providers. Similarly, certain vendors have solutions that are better suited for critical access hospitals. Health care organizations interested in implementing a health IT application should consider participating in forums that discuss these issues or seek out similar entities that have experience with vendors they are considering. As providers assess potential vendors and make a final selection, they may also consult resources available regarding health IT solutions from the Certification Commission for Healthcare Information Technology (CCHIT), Drumond Group Incorporated, or InfoGard Laboratories Incorporated as certifying bodies that evaluate EHR software for compliance with ONC standards on suitability, quality, interoperability, security and privacy.
As part of the assessment process, the hospital, clinic or physician practice will need to draft a request for proposal (RFP) or request for information (RFI) to solicit information from potential vendors. A RFP/RFI should require information on: pricing models; maintenance plans; user training; procedures for protecting patients' security and privacy; go-live and post-implementation support; company stability, size and experience with a particular solution; and other attributes that the provider values in a vendor or in the technology. A provider will usually want a vendor to provide a demonstration of its product, check into its references and arrange a site visit to assist in the evaluation process. Including as many end-users as possible in the vendor assessment is important to identify upcoming challenges and to create a sense of ownership that can foster user acceptance of the system later in the process. Below are some resources that may aid in the vendor assessment and selection process.
Resources for selecting a vendor in rural settings:
Resources for sample RFPs/RFIs:
Additional resources on the vendor selection process:
E-mail the HealthIT e-mail box: firstname.lastname@example.org