How to Write an RFP for an EHR

Create the perfect Request For Proposal (RFP) to help you select your next EHR software partner.

Electronic health record (EHR) and case management software has become an integral part of human service agencies’ operations across the globe, revolutionizing the way client data is stored, managed, and accessed. With the increasing demand for EHR software, there are more vendors for a human service agency to consider. A request for proposal (RFP) is an essential tool in the vendor selection process, as it helps human service agencies narrow their options and select the best vendor for their specific needs. 

This article provides a step-by-step guide on how to write an effective RFP for EHR and case management software. It covers the essential components of releasing an RFP, including the organizational management, assessment process, evaluation criteria, implementation process, and follow-through with the vendor. By following this guide, human service agencies can ensure that they select the right vendor and implement the best EHR software for their system. Below, you will learn how to move forward in the process step by step.

Table of Contents


Assemble a Cross-Functional Team

Assembling a cross-functional internal team is the first step in creating an effective EHR RFP. The team should include individuals from various departments in your organization, including IT, administration, clinical, and finance. Each member should bring their unique perspective to the table to help ensure that the RFP is comprehensive and covers all necessary aspects. Appointing an RFP coordinator to manage the project and facilitate communication between team members can bring added trust to the roundtable.

The RFP coordinator will also be responsible for ensuring that the RFP is completed on time. By having a diverse team, human service agencies can benefit from a more well-rounded RFP that considers the different needs and priorities of each department. This will ultimately ensure that the organization selects the best vendor and implements the most suitable EHR and case management software for its own needs and those of its clients.

Define Your Goals and Objectives

Once you have assembled a cross-functional team, the second step in creating an effective RFP for EHR software is to define your goals and objectives. This will help ensure that the RFP requirements and expectations are aligned with your organization’s unique needs based on your short- and long-term objectives. Short-term objectives may include improving care, enhancing data security, and streamlining workflow efficiency. Long-term objectives may involve cost reduction, scalability, and interoperability with other systems. 

By defining your collective goals and objectives, you can balance competing priorities and ensure that the EHR platform RFP covers all necessary aspects. For example, if your goal is to reduce costs, you may prioritize vendors who offer flexible pricing models or who have a proven track record of delivering cost-effective solutions. Ultimately, your goals and objectives should shape the RFP requirements and expectations to ensure that you select a vendor that is aligned with your mission and objectives and can confidently deliver measurable results.

Conduct a Needs Assessment

Once a human service agency has established its goals and objectives for an EHR software RFP, the next step is to conduct a thorough needs assessment of the software performance needs. This involves evaluating data related to the scope of an organization’s capacity, services offered, and user demographics. Examples of this type of data include the organization’s size, number of users, client population, and unique clinical or administrative needs. 

Various methods for conducting a needs assessment are available, including surveys, focus groups, and stakeholder interviews. Conducting a thorough needs assessment allows human service agencies to identify their specific requirements and priorities for the EHR system RFP, which can help guide the development of the document. Getting into the nuances of your desired software capabilities can help you create an RFP that attracts vendors that can meet those requirements, resulting in a more satisfying initial response and meaningful selection process.

Outline Functional and Technical Requirements

Another critical factor in conducting a thorough needs assessment involves identifying the organization’s functional and technical requirements and priorities. Functional requirements include scheduling, billing, record keeping, and reporting. Technical requirements, in contrast, may include server capacity, operating system compatibility, security protocols, and interoperability. In addition, it is important to identify any current technology or systems that must be integrated with the new EHR and case management software. 

It’s essential to make a clear and concise list of these requirements to ensure that both parties understand the project scope. By outlining the functional and technical requirements, human service agencies and vendor applicants can better foresee a realistic project scope and timeline, leading to a successful implementation and improved care for the individuals who visit the organization.

Develop a Project Scope and Timeline

Once the human service agency has identified its specific requirements and priorities for EHR software, developing a project scope and timeline is next. It is necessary to define the tasks, deliverables, and responsibilities for the organization and the vendor. This includes outlining the project phases, which typically include vendor selection, customization, data migration, training, and support. Each of these phases should be carefully planned and outlined in the RFP. Be sure to develop a realistic timeline that reflects the complexity of the project and the available resources.

Rushing the implementation process can lead to errors, delays, and unnecessary costs. By creating a detailed project scope and timeline, human service agencies and vendor applicants can enjoy transparency about how to achieve their goals and objectives for the EHR and case management software implementation. When expectations and responsibilities are clearly delineated, the project can move forward efficiently and effectively, leading to improved care and streamlined workflows.


Specify Vendor Qualifications and Experience

As the human service agency progresses toward releasing its RFP for EHR software, it is important to specify vendor qualifications and experience to ensure a successful partnership. For example, the RFP may state that all vendor applicants should have a minimum number of years in the EHR industry to ensure that they have the necessary expertise. A proven track record with organizations similar to yours may also be a minimum requirement for submission. Certifications or accreditations can provide additional assurance of the vendor’s capabilities. 

Another crucial factor is the vendor’s experience integrating with other health care IT systems and vendors. Interoperability is essential in modern health care, and a vendor experienced in this area can help streamline the implementation process. By carefully considering vendor qualifications and experience, human service agencies can ensure a partner that is well equipped to help them achieve their goals and improve care coordination.

Request References and Case Studies

When selecting the right vendor for an EHR implementation project, conducting a thorough needs assessment and outlining the functional and technical requirements is only the beginning. These steps help organizations scope projects properly and ensure that the vendor has the necessary information to cross-check their skills and experience before they apply, narrowing down the vendor applicant pool to those most likely to meet expectations. Another way of enhancing the selection process is to request information about vendor qualifications and experience, which the organization can assess by asking for references and evaluating case studies. 

References from previous clients can provide valuable insight into a vendor’s ability to deliver on promises, while case studies can help assess its experience with EHR implementations. By carefully reviewing this information, human service agencies can gauge vendor suitability to ensure that they select a vendor with the necessary experience and qualifications to bring the highest-quality and best-value product and customer service to the job. Ultimately, working with a qualified vendor can improve care and enhance the success of EHR implementation.

Develop Evaluation Criteria

Even with well-defined minimum requirements outlined in your RFP, you may still receive submissions from many vendors that seem at first glance to be equally or comparably qualified. That’s why it’s helpful to develop evaluation criteria for potential vendors before releasing your RFP. One example of how to establish criteria based on the organization’s goals and objectives is to use a grading rubric. Criteria you might include on the rubric include functionality, ease of use, cost, and vendor experience.

Assigning weights to each criterion based on its importance to the organization can help ensure that the most critical factors are appropriately considered. For example, if the organization places a high priority on a vendor’s experience with similar organizations or integrating with other health care IT systems, it should assign these criteria a higher weight. 

You may also have a qualitative review section for your cross-functional team to elaborate on its scoring. Leave space for graders to leave written comments elaborating on their scores for a more detailed analysis and consider hosting a roundtable to discuss their comments. By carefully reviewing this information, human service agencies can gauge vendor suitability and promote fairness in the selection process. 

Request Details on Post-Implementation Support

Effective EHR and case management implementation requires careful planning and collaboration between human service agencies and their chosen vendors far beyond the RFP. Beyond the initial implementation phase, establishing a plan for ongoing support, maintenance, and updates ensures that the investment in the vendor is value-added and ripples from the technology to the people. Here are two evaluation criteria that are important not to miss:

User Training

A crucial aspect of this process is the development of a comprehensive training plan for users, which should identify the types of training needed, such as on-site, remote, self-paced, or a combination of these methods. This may depend on whether your organization is adopting an EHR for the first time or switching vendors. 

In addition, organizations must provide adequate support for users during the transition period to ensure that they can effectively use the EHR system. By ensuring that your RFP mandates that vendors provide a variety of training options and hands-on training relevant to users’ specific roles and responsibilities, human service agencies can ensure that all employees are proficient in using the new EHR system.

Post-Implementation Evaluation

After successfully implementing an EHR system, a post-implementation evaluation is crucial to assess the effectiveness of the project. This involves comparing the EHR software’s performance against the initial goals and objectives set during the planning phase. Identifying areas for improvement and potential system enhancements is another important part of this evaluation.

By creating criteria ahead of time within the RFP that asks vendors to explain how they will gather feedback from users and stakeholders can reveal whether the vendor is a long-term fit. This type of data can inform future modifications to the software and provide valuable insight for optimizations or suggested add-on features. Such feedback can reveal what worked well during the implementation process and what could be improved. By providing proper support, a vendor can work with a human service agency to ensure that their investment in an EHR system is paying off, their employees feel supported, and their consumers are receiving the highest-quality care.

Decide Whether or Not To Release the Scoring Criteria

Your organization can choose whether to release the rubric publicly along with the RFP or keep the document for internal use and reference. By letting vendors view the grading system before responding, you can encourage and support them in supplying information that is directly relevant to your organization. Alternatively, keeping your grading system private could help prevent vendors from embellishing or falsifying information to have a better chance at securing the partnership. It is up to vendors to learn how to write an RFP response that positions them positively with your organization.

"We made it a priority to communicate with staff how important it was to make this transition, focusing on the ways the new system would ease everyone’s day-to-day work and move the organization forward in the long term."
Jane Pirsig
Executive Director,
Aurora Family Service

Draft the RFP

After the RFP outline is complete, consider delegating the task of writing and editing it to the department that is strongest in writing. It may be able to source a template or an EHR RFP example either internally or from a third-party consultant to expand the outline to a final product that is ready for release. This is the final step before distributing the final document to potential vendors. 

Before distribution, you have another opportunity to ensure that the vendor applicant pool contains only companies with expertise in working with organizations similar in type, size, and industry to yours. Human service agencies should research and analyze the market when creating a targeted list of potential vendors, focusing on vendors with a proven track record of success. 

Distribute the RFP

Using industry resources, such as trade shows, conferences, and online forums, can also help human service agencies find vendors that align with their needs. After creating a list of potential vendors, an organization may then decide to contact targeted vendors directly with their RFP rather than relying on vendors to find the RFP in a public forum. It could also give bonus weight points on its grading rubric to referred vendors or those that meet a prequalifying checklist.

Once an organization has decided to pursue direct contact with targeted vendors, a public announcement of the RFP, or both, it can distribute the RFP and begin reviewing and evaluating proposals. It is best to provide a clear deadline for vendors to submit their proposals and establish a process for follow-up questions and meetings. Nowadays, most RFPs are distributed online, either through email to a targeted contact list or as a listing on one or more related grant websites for industry vendors.

Evaluate Vendor Proposals

After an organization has distributed its finalized RFP document to potential vendors, it must evaluate the vendor proposals it receives. This evaluation process should use a predetermined scoring system to ensure vendors are compared objectively. The organization can create a task force to aid in the evaluation process composed of individuals from the larger cross-functional team established earlier in the process or other executives from higher up in the organization. The organization should decide whether the scoring and voting process is anonymous or takes place as a group discussion.

Based on its predetermined scoring and voting system, the organization can create a shortlist of top contenders to move forward in the selection process. Demonstrations or site visits with each vendor can provide valuable insights and help the organization make an informed decision when further assessing candidate vendors.

Conduct Due Diligence

When evaluating vendor proposals, it is wise to conduct extra due diligence beyond written applications to ensure that the shortlist of chosen vendors is composed of businesses that are the right fit for the organization’s needs. This involves verifying references and case studies for credibility, reviewing financial stability, business history, and reputation, as well as assessing individual vendors’ track records for customer support and satisfaction. Evaluating vendors’ commitment to product development and keeping abreast of industry trends is also important. 

By following these steps, organizations can select a vendor with a proven track record of success that is financially stable and committed to continuously improving its products and services. Ultimately, this objective evaluation process can help organizations make informed decisions they are confident about in both the short and long term. Taking the time to conduct due diligence can help organizations avoid costly mistakes and ensure that they invest in vendors that fit their needs and can deliver on their promises in the short and long run.

Negotiate Contract Terms

Once a human service agency has completed its due diligence and selected a vendor, the next step is to negotiate contract terms. This involves discussing expectations, responsibilities, and costs with the chosen vendor to ensure that both parties are aligned on all aspects of the contract. Key contractual items, such as service level agreements, data ownership, customization, and termination clauses, should be given special attention. It is crucial to clarify the vendor’s responsibilities and obligations, as well as the organization’s rights and protections. 

Data ownership and security are also critical considerations that the contract should address. Once these details have been ironed out and both parties are in agreement, the contract can be signed. By taking the time to negotiate contract terms that are mutually beneficial and clearly defined, human service agencies can ensure that their investment in a vendor is well protected and that they receive the expected value from the partnership.

Implement the Selected Proposal

A human service agency that has fully completed the due diligence process and negotiated favorable contract terms with a vendor then gets ready for implementation. This phase involves close collaboration between the human service agency and vendor to develop a detailed implementation plan. Both parties should identify tasks, timelines, and responsibilities to ensure a smooth implementation. Organizations should also establish a communication plan to ensure effective coordination and stakeholder engagement. 

It’s during this stage that both parties anticipate and prepare for contingencies and potential challenges that may arise during the implementation process. By taking these steps, human service agencies can ensure that the implementation process is well planned and executed, thereby adding value to the investment made in the vendor. A detailed plan in place and a clear understanding of each party’s responsibilities can help ensure a successful implementation.

Save the RFP as a Template

Human service agencies can save time and effort in their future procurement process by reusing a successful Request for Proposal (RFP) as a template. This allows them to easily modify the template for future needs, such as adding modules to the selected EHR program or issuing similar RFPs for supplemental software. By leveraging a proven template, agencies streamline the procurement process and save costs. Ongoing communication and collaboration with the chosen vendor are crucial to ensure the selected EHR system can meet evolving needs. Regular discussions enable system updates and enhancements. The partnership approach fosters a strong working relationship, leveraging the vendor’s expertise. 

Agencies should prioritize ongoing support, maintenance, and training for EHR system users, utilizing the vendor’s resources to address technical issues and conduct training sessions. Gathering feedback from users and stakeholders helps identify areas for improvement. By embracing a culture of collaboration and continuous improvement, agencies ensure their EHR systems remain effective and efficient despite evolving goals or rapid technological advancements. Saving the RFP as a template and nurturing the vendor relationship optimizes procurement, adapts the EHR and case management system, and achieves long-term success.

Final Thoughts

A well-written RFP is crucial for the successful implementation of an EHR and case management system. It is the foundation upon which the entire project is built and serves as a roadmap that guides the process from start to finish. Following the detailed steps outlined in the RFP creation process is essential to ensuring that the final product meets the organization’s goals and objectives. This includes identifying the critical functionality required, determining the project’s scope, and establishing a clear timeline and budget. 

By taking a methodical approach and following the step-by-step guide, human service agencies can ensure that their EHR implementation is successful and delivers the intended benefits. Ultimately, this will result in improved care, better outcomes, and increased efficiency for the organization as a whole.

If you are searching for new software, our team can offer an honest opinion on the right EHR for your agency and your programs, given your unique needs.