Posted By Dayna Riddle On February 7, 2023
Every health organization is different. Whether it’s differences in state forms, reporting requirements, or community needs, it’s important to ask the right questions when considering an Electronic Health Record (EHR) vendor. Some policies require health organizations to use an EHR Request for Proposal (RFP) to assist in their decision-making process – to compare vendors and see which solution is a good fit. Although oftentimes lengthy, take advantage of this process. Use this time to dig into your organization’s pain points, and see where you can optimize workflows or address staff issues.
Before you publish EHR RFPs, make sure you communicate with your staff to make sure you know all their pain points to address. In many cases, the decision maker is different from the day-to-day users of the solution.
1. What features do you have?
A series of questions about product information is a chance for you to see which type of features are in each EHR and if they address all your practice needs. Throughout the EHR RFP, you can ask several in-depth questions about any particular product you need, like e-prescribe, reporting capabilities, patient portal options, billing features, and more. These questions help to confirm your expectations are able to be met by vendors. The more clear communication, the better, so that you know what each solution can actually do.
2. How long will implementation take?
If you are already using another EHR, you need to know when to end the contract, so that you won’t go many months without your digital tools. When can you expect your new EHR to go live? How many days of training should we plan on? Depending on your health organization, implementing an EHR can take 30 days to several years. Timing is key when transitioning between EHRs, and you want to ensure your timeline is aligned with the potential vendors.
3. Are you interoperable with other systems?
Interoperability means that your EHR solution can exchange data with other services, providers, and systems. This is important for supporting whole-person care as it allows for referrals, collecting Social Determinants of Health (SDOH) information, exchanging reports for program funding, lab results, other external health records, and more. You want to ensure that your solution is interoperable with others. One way a vendor proves they are interoperable is through HL7 compliance, which is a framework to facilitate the exchange of information between organizations.
4. Do you meet state-specific or other special requirements?
Each health organization needs specific reporting or other features to meet state/local needs. Is there a Health Information Exchange (HIE) you need connections to? What about a state immunization registry? To receive some grant funding, you need specific reporting features that address your community’s needs. To receive funding for some programs, you need to have a tool to track the success of those programs. Is this vendor able to support you in your special requirements?
5. How do you handle data migration?
Data migration is critical to ensuring your transition to a new EHR system is successful. It is the process of transferring your patient data from system to system, and you need to know you can trust another EHR to have the most up-to-date and accurate information in patient charts. Some vendors include demographics data migration, along with associated attachments and clinical data. If the vendor does not offer data migration assistance, you will have to manually scan information into your system, which can waste valuable time you could be spending with patients.
6. Is the system comprehensive or modular?
Comprehensive (or complete) systems include many different functionalities, wrapped into one solution. You don’t have to switch between programs or screens to access billing or practice management, as the solution has everything you need. On the other hand, modular EHRs give you the opportunity to create a custom solution, but it can be a hassle to make sure each module is set up correctly to support your organization. One option you may not have considered is choosing a complete EHR solution that is also customizable. In this EHR RFP question, vendors can explain how their specific solution is set up.
7. Are you HIPAA-compliant and Meaningful Use certified?
If a solution is HIPAA-compliant, that means that it has physical, network, and process security measures in place to protect health information. Some of these measures may include data backup or disaster recovery, secure data sites, and 2-factor authentication options. In addition, a solution can also be Meaningful Use certified, or Promoting Interoperability certified. An EHR solution is Meaningful Use (or Promoting Interoperability) certified if it goes beyond HIPAA compliance, to provide an even higher level of patient security and safe data exchange. You may also want to ask about HITRUST or HL7 certifications, and different kinds of security options per user (billing vs. clinical, etc.). These types of security questions are critical, so you ensure your patient data is safe at all times.
8. What’s your invoicing process like?
Some EHR vendors will tell you their entire costs upfront, and others won’t. You don’t want to be caught up in surprise hidden fees, so questions about billing can ensure you don’t go over your organization’s budget. Some vendors charge monthly, some annually, and some have flexible billing options. Getting this information is important to align expectations and ensure you know the total cost of ownership, if possible.
9. What are your training and support options?
Find out the training and support options to ensure you aren’t left in the dust after go-live. Additional support tools, like an online portal, ticket requests, regular webinars, training sessions, and even in-person or remote user groups after implementation can make a huge difference. Some EHRs will empower your staff with knowledge about the product so they can feel confident in their day-to-day tasks, and others provide only limited training.
10. What are your system requirements?
Some EHRs are cloud-based, meaning no hardware needs to be installed. Rather, you only need internet access to log into the software. Cloud-based EHRs also do not require an IT team to fix, allowing for lower costs long term, and providing backup for patient data. These solutions also reduce cyberattacks and allow for higher security measures. You will need to know which browsers are compatible with each vendor if they are cloud-based, and if not, which hardware will you need to purchase.
Things to Consider
Before publishing your EHR RFP, make sure you have addressed every need of your organization. The more thorough the RFP, the more thorough the responses are. These questions are simply a starting point for the content of a good RFP. Provide an in-depth list of requirements (organized in segments) and tell the vendors the order you will be evaluating the RFP content. Communicate with vendors exactly what you want them to submit and how you want them to present their feedback. Occasionally, negative experiences during implementation occur due to a lack of communication during the RFP stage. You must provide enough details about your organization so that vendors see if they can fulfill your expectations, and prepare accurate pricing quotes.
Additionally, be aware of your time frame. Especially to communicate with vendors when you need responses. HealthIT.gov suggests giving vendors 4-6 weeks to respond to EHR RFPs so they can give you the most detailed information available. After receiving the responses, allocate time to compare responses. To streamline the evaluation process, you can compare in an “apples to apples” system. One way to do this is through evaluation documents, a scoring system, or even pros and cons written out on a whiteboard for your whole team to discuss in a group. This makes it easy to identify top contenders and immediately notice gaps in certain solutions.
The right solution for your organization is out there. Apply these tips and stay patient– a perfect EHR match will benefit you for years to come.
About Patagonia Health, Inc.
Patagonia Health’s integrated EHR, Practice Management, and Billing solution is designed to improve departmental workflows using apps and cloud-based technology. Our company was founded with a focus on providing technology solutions with highly referenceable customer service. We collaborate with public and behavioral health organizations to develop advanced features, empowering them to improve the well-being of their communities. Our federally-certified software enables our customers to achieve their desired health outcomes. We serve those who serve others. If you’d like more information about our solutions, contact us today.