Three Tips for Mutually-Beneficial EHR Vendor Contracts

For most healthcare organizations today, buying a new unified EHR system serves as their most significant purchase. Already overwhelmed by reporting pressures and data entry, end users do not want the hassle of transitioning systems only to jump ship from the EHR system a few years later. Careful vendor contract negotiation is vital for long-term system utilization and ROI for a coordinated care effort across the continuum. To assist this substantial process, here are three tips for vendor success.

  1. Appoint a RFP coordinator - During the RFP process, strictly enforce that all vendor communication, from RFP questions to scheduling follow-up vendor meetings and site visits, is coordinated by one appointed resource-typically an unbiased third-party strategic advisory consultant. This resource will oversee RFP creation, distribution and vendor responses, while maintaining a clear formal timeline. When vendors try to side sell hospital executives and end users, competing agendas get in the way of a cohesive decision on behalf of the entire healthcare organization. Vendor promises from side conversations may not make it into the final contract, which may leave end users feeling alienated and resentful toward the IT department, causing hindered system adoption.

  2. Create a cross-disciplinary negotiation team - To eliminate process silos and cohesively represent the organization, involve stakeholders from across the enterprise, including clinical, operational and financial areas, not just IT, for both system selection and contract negotiation. This cross-disciplinary group can also cross check the list of applications currently used by the organization and details about their workflow issues, so accurate information is conveyed to bidding vendors. Include legal and third-party strategic advisory consultant support to strategically maneuver contract language and negotiation tactics. Make sure these external resources hold direct experience negotiating similar projects on behalf of comparable healthcare organizations.

  3. Think of the entire system lifecycle - Compare a current state analysis of your organization with the vendor's projected future state to identify missing must haves. Find out what end users cannot live without up front. Make sure these items are specifically documented with the vendor with detailed timelines to hold both side accountable. Clarify all system expenses and payment timelines up front, like those for data storage, licensing, hardware, software, interfacing, system implementation and go-live support, post-implementation optimization and system upgrades, as well as possible discounts. By clearly communicating these expectations, both sides avoid animosity associated with nickel-and-dime tactics or calculated ambiguity.

Addressing these three areas of contract considerations, your healthcare organization will have an elevated starting point for a long-term mutually-beneficial vendor relationship.

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