RFP fun

We have just received the responses to our Electronic Health Record RFP. As I had mentioned before, I don’t find a lot of value in the boilerplate RFPs that you would typically get from a consulting organization. Ours only had 56 questions in the functional section (there was a technical section too).

It appears that providing minimal answers to a response is a common vendor tactic. Most of the responses really lacked the depth that I desired. For example, we had some open ended questions regarding disease and health management capabilites. Some vendors had two sentence responses. That should be 8 paragraphs.

I think this is a tactic. I think vendors know that there is a human tendency to fill in the blanks with the answers that the reader wants.

We did try to keep the vendors entertained. In the middle of the RFP we asked: What is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow? All of the vendors had a witty response and seemed to appreciate the spirit in which it was asked.

We also asked: Please demonstate how your HER (don’t you just hate it when Microsoft Spell Checker changes EHR to HER) will help us to achieve…

Only one vendor acknowledged our parenthetical observation. They wrote: Our solucion too the Microsoft Word EHR/HER conflikt is to turn off spellcheque.

I would love to reveal that witty responder, but they were the only ones that made us sign a non-disclosre agreement.

One quick sidebar…I took Amicas to task a while back regarding their lack of a web-based tool for tracking service issues. they now have one, and it works very well.

9 thoughts on “RFP fun

  1. Regarding Microsoft changing words automatically, i.e., EHR/HER, SEH/SHE. You can change this without turning off spellcheck altogether.

    AutoCorrect Options

    Type in EHR, then delete.

    AutoCorrect Options

    Type in EHR, then delete.


  2. I am very intrigued by your note that this blog discusses “crazy things in the life of a healthcare CIO.” What is one of those “crazy things” that you remember most, and why was it so crazy/memorable?

  3. Thx for the sanity.

    I sit on the other side of the table…a vendor who receives RFP/RFI’s and reponds to them. Often they are poorly worded Santa wish lists with no relationship to budget.

    And a vendor knows how to fill them out.

    Healthcare, as an industry vertical, is behind the times wrt RFP/RFI. Other industries’ docs are generally better written, focused and based on solid research.

    And its sad… a lot of good effort is wasted while we try to drive healthcare into the 21st Century.

  4. Will,
    For me, the RFP responses are only helpful in narrowing down the field, not in actually making a selection. For that, I alway used extensive functional demos that we scripted rather than having a vendor demo, which help identify areas where the product does What you want, but not How you want it done.

  5. I too would love to read the anonymous responses to the “air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow” question. Specifically, did any of them simply reply “Ni! Ni!”

    Seriously, though, congratulations for acknowledging in writing how dry these RFP/RFI processes can be, and encouraging the responders to relax and show their humor and humanity.

    I can’t think of a better way to gauge how a vendor will handle that all-too-frequent tough moment down the road, when an unstoppable scope creep comes up against an immovable deadline and budget! Having a real human on the other side of the table helps immensely to get things back in line.

  6. One reason I don’t think standard RFP’s generate a lot of detail (2 sentences rather than the 8 paragraphs you expected) is that RFP are used to screen vendors out rather than trying to screen them in.

    Writing an RFP to screen in is not easy. Truthfully I never thought about it until I saw your post so I’m thinking off the top of my head. We may want to set the tone by stating:”Convince us why we should continue our discussions with you. Your responses to this RFP are the only opportunity you will get to be considered for the next level of considerations”. Coupling this with open ended questions such as:”Tell us why you think your disease and health management capabilities are better than your competition. What features and benefits do you provide?”

    Don’t know if this will work or not but it might be worth a shot.

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