Ask an Advisor: Building a request for proposal (RFP) for a new EHR system

Insight Article - February 24, 2020

Electronic Health Records

Policies & Procedures

MGMA Staff Members

The first step toward identifying, selecting and implementing a successful new EHR system for a medical practice begins with building out a request for proposal — a formal document that guides vendors in submitting key details about how a given software or product meets the demands of your organization. 

One MGMA member recently submitted an inquiry to MGMA Ask an Advisor about an RFP template and other considerations for a new EHR system. 

Why switch EHRs? 

As Marion Jenkins, PhD, FHMISS, partner, HealthSpaces, and Cristy Good, MPH, MBA, CPC, CMPE, senior industry advisor, MGMA, noted in their MGMA Connection magazine feature (“The devil in the details”), there is “widespread dissatisfaction” among medical providers regarding their current EHRs, and there are a number of circumstances in which you should consider switching your EHR and building an RFP: 

  • Your EHR has been decertified by CHERT (check your specific version). 

  • You are many versions behind on your existing EHR and facing significant upgrade costs to become current. 

  • The Department of Justice has taken significant legal action on your EHR company, which may include fines, government oversight, etc. 

  • Your EHR provider has been bought out and there is uncertainty about the long-term survivability of the platform you use. 

  • Your current EHR is tied to another entity (e.g., hospital, another practice, etc.) and that relationship is changing or coming to an end, or they are switching EHRs, which is causing your practice to consider alternatives. 

  • You have lost a significant number of subject-matter experts (SMEs) or staff who were tied to your current EHR, and/or a new core set of providers/staff are experts in other EHR(s).  

  • Your current EHR company has lost significant staff (or a similar issue) that has caused their support to become substandard or unworkable. 

In general, Jenkins and Good recommend setting a realistic time frame (at least six to 12 months) as you develop an outline of your practice needs and evaluate strengths and weaknesses of your existing system. From there, develop your list of criteria and set up a weighted scorecard that can be used to evaluate all candidate systems with the same set of criteria. 

Am I ready for an RFP? 

Many organizations might opt to issue a request for information (RFI) to vendors to help narrow down the field before proceeding with an RFP. This serves as something of an icebreaker with vendors, as noted by EHR in Practice.  

EHR in Practice offers a helpful EHR software RFP guide (PDF download) that walks through: 

  • Outlining practice processes for an RFP 

  • Building a checklist of requirements (features and services) for a new EHR system 

  • Setting financial expectations 

  • Ensuring clarity for vendor expectations, such as straightforward directions on proposal formatting and the submission process. 

Key RFP elements 

While the extent of the information contained in an RFP for a new EHR system can easily make the final document in excess of 12 pages, your practice’s RFP should include the following information for vendors: 

  • The number of facilities that will use the EHR 

  • The number of internal users your system has, both providers and other users who access the system 

  • The name of your current EHR system 

  • The anticipated project start date 

  • Any anticipated project go-live dates 

  • Your requirements for a new EHR system, including: 

  • Reporting functions 

  • Security features 

  • Technical requirements for hardware, software, networking and workstations 

  • Patient access/scheduling features 

  • E-prescribing availability 

  • Expectations for end-user training, including the number of users who will require training 

  • A list of third-party or ancillary programs integrated with your existing EHR system 

  • The interoperability standard a new system must meet. 

Additional resources for developing an RFP 

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MGMA Staff Members

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