Part 2: Evaluating Vendor Responses

You’ve already recognized the benefit of hiring an external vendor to help with your EHR and you’ve laid the groundwork for hiring a managed services partner by being deliberate and thorough in assessing your needs and expectations. You created and distributed an RFP to get a clear picture of potential vendors. Now, the vendor responses are flowing in and it’s time to assess who might be the best fit for your organization.

At first glance, every vendor might sound ideal. After all, they are trying to make themselves look as attractive as possible. But, if you’ve asked the right questions, you should have a thorough view of these organizations, warts and all.

In this section of the “Choosing a Managed Services Partner” series, we outline several key considerations to guide you in evaluating these responses so you can confidently select the right vendor.

1. Response Style

Sometimes it’s not just what the vendor says, but how they say it. Did they follow directions and answer your questions clearly and thoroughly? Are there typos or grammatical errors? Was the response tailored to your request? And perhaps at the most basic level, did they meet the deadline?

Some of these issues may not appear to be relevant for a managed services provider, but they are indicative of a larger approach to business. Sloppiness or a failure to follow directions can be an early indication of other work the vendor might produce, while a templated response can be a sign of many things – laziness, inflexibility, dishonesty, and more. Finally, a missed deadline at this phase is clearly a red flag.

2. Response Content

If you’re approaching this process thoroughly, you’ve already spent considerable time defining your requirements and expectations and creating a change management plan. Now, you’re evaluating the meat of their response. How well does this response meet your expectations? Are they knowledgeable and able to deliver the level of service you seek? Do you feel like you have a clear understanding of this organization? Do they understand yours? Are their offerings acceptable for what you need?

3. Experience

A vendor can say they are able to fulfill your needs, but have they done it? Sometimes your request may not completely align with a vendor’s previous work, but it is helpful if they have comparable experience in delivering a similar level of support to other hospitals or health systems your size. If staff and subject matter experts have the experience you require, it is more likely that your partnership will be productive.

4. Results

Results are the logical follow-up to experience, but their absence might be a red flag. If a vendor says they have the experience required to fulfill your needs, they should be able to demonstrate how they have successfully done so through quantifiable results. For example, if a previous client needed help managing call volumes, the vendor should demonstrate not only the steps they took to support the client, but also how that support impacted the client.

5. References

An RFP response is going to tout a vendor’s accomplishments and abilities, but a true assessment of a vendor’s performance is best obtained through a third party, preferably a current or former client. If references are requested but not provided, this might be a concern. If references are included, are they reputable resources? If so, is their assessment of the vendor favorable?

At this point in the response review, you should feel confident in whether a vendor is worthy of your business. If you’ve decided that they are, it is time to move forward with your partnership and secure the contract.

In the third and final piece in this series, we’ll discuss the onboarding process, expected timelines, and how a managed services provider should integrate with your organization.