For procurement and proposal teams working in the healthcare industry, the importance of exchanging information quickly and accurately goes beyond cost savings and winning new business. Consequently, it should come as no surprise that the healthcare RFP is a popular tool for organizations looking for the perfect vendor. So, whether you issue or respond to RFPs, it’s crucial to have an efficient and effective process.
In this post, you’ll learn the ins and outs of the healthcare RFP. First, we’ll explore some RFP basics, then we’ll discuss the nuances involved in both sides of the process: issuing a healthcare RFP and responding to one. Finally, you’ll see it all in action with real-life examples of healthcare proposals, sample healthcare RFPs, as well as templates to help you get started. With these resources you’re bound for success, no matter what your goals are.
Healthcare RFP basics
What is a healthcare RFP?
A healthcare request for proposal (RFP) is an organized way for buyers to collect information and evaluate potential vendors. The RFP is typically presented as a questionnaire and also provides background and project scope information to guide vendors.
For healthcare organizations, this question-and-answer format provides a clear side-by-side comparison. For the suppliers and vendors who serve these organizations, each RFP is an opportunity to win new business
Why use the RFP process in healthcare?
When healthcare organizations seek out new suppliers and vendors, there are a lot of factors they must consider. The RFP process provides an easy way to collect and evaluate a vendor’s background, experience, product or service quality and consistency, capabilities, customer service, security and more. In addition, the healthcare RFP provides vendors with valuable information about the needs and requirements of the customer.
5 big benefits of the healthcare RFP
As with all procurement, a primary goal of the healthcare RFP is to reduce costs. Accordingly, the process provides a competitive environment that ensures healthcare organizations find the right suppliers at the best possible price.
Verify vendor reliability
In healthcare, reliability is one of the highest priorities. If a product or service is late or inaccurate, the consequences may be dire. Afterall, a life may literally be on the line. RFPs enable buyers to evaluate customer satisfaction as well as the qualifications and experience of a vendor in a structured way.
Build a backup plan
If after the RFP is closed, the selected vendor fails to perform, the RFP process enables the procurement team to act quickly. Indeed, the buyer can identify an alternate provider and accelerate contract negotiations simply by referring back to the initial RFP results.
Ensure transparency and regulatory compliance
Unlike many other industries, healthcare organizations are subject to state regulations that may require them to conduct an RFP for certain products or services. In addition, many have organizational initiatives to ensure fairness in vendor selection. The RFP provides clear documentation of the vendor selection process and vendor compliance. So, any questions can be cleared up quickly.
Healthcare RFPs empower buyers to apply an objective, data-based approach to procurement. As a part of the healthcare RFP process, many organizations require the completion of vendor security questionnaires to further reduce risk. Additionally, the detailed-nature of RFPs reduces the chances of getting stuck with the wrong partner.
Types of healthcare RFPs
While not every procurement project requires an RFP, they are particularly prevalent in the healthcare industry. In fact, according to research conducted by Definitive Healthcare, hospitals and health systems. alone conduct around 25,000 RFPs per year. Naturally, these RFPs cover a wide range of required goods and services in several categories.
The most common healthcare RFPs are for:
- Professional services and consulting
- Medical and surgical equipment
- Healthcare information technology (HIT) systems
- Laboratory and research services
- Support services and staffing
How to issue and manage a healthcare RFP
Creating a successful healthcare RFP that identifies the best vendor requires a unique combination of research, collaboration and proposal analysis. For the most part, RFP management in healthcare follows general procurement best practices. However, there are some considerations and additional steps to protect your organization and ensure compliance.
The RFP process for software procurement
At its core, issuing an RFP is a simple three step process. First, you create the RFP. Then, you work with vendors to administer the RFP. And, finally, your team conducts an evaluation of the responses.
Identify the issue and review needs
When your stakeholders have a problem, they turn to you to help solve it. Your first step? Ask questions. Explore the background of the issue to better understand what the best solution is. In addition, working with your stakeholders helps prioritize the factors you will consider when making your final selection.
The healthcare landscape is constantly evolving. Unfortunately, that means that the template and questions you used a few years ago for a similar project may be out of date or irrelevant. Before you write your RFP and select your vendors, dig in and do some research. Explore industry trends, look for new vendors, examine similar use cases and review recent RFP examples.
Create your RFP timeline
Establish your RFP timeline. Identify key milestones in the project for your internal team as well as vendors. For example, you should plan out the RFP issuing date, timeframe for vendor questions and answers, proposal deadline, evaluation period and announcement of the final selection.
Draft your RFP
Create your healthcare RFP using feedback from your internal teams, your own research and the background you’ve learned. In addition to your RFP questions, your RFP should include:
- The project background and an overview of the problem
- Your goals for the engagement
- Description of needed goods or services and budget
- The RFP timeline and vendor deadlines
- Your RFP requirements including qualification, submission and evaluation criteria
- The organizations terms, conditions and regulatory requirements
- A vendor security questionnaire
Issue the RFP
Depending on the regulations that govern your procurement process, you may need to issue the RFP publically. Alternatively, you may be able to narrow the vendor pool by only issuing the RFP to a select group of prospective participants. Generally, including six or fewer vendors is ideal for a speedy result.
Answer follow up questions
Inevitably, vendors need some clarification or additional background information. During the question and answer period, collect and collate any necessary clarifications. Then, provide the same answers to every vendor to ensure fairness and transparency.
Send a reminder
About three to five days from your RFP deadline, review the proposals you’ve received already. Do you have enough participants to ensure an accurate and competitive outcome? If not, send a friendly reminder to the vendor contact.
Score the proposals
Once you’ve collected your responses, review them for compliance with your RFP criteria. Also, check to ensure the vendors meet the stated minimum requirements. After that, score responses and sections that contain closed-ended questions. Fortunately, if you use an RFP software solution, RFP automation performs this step for you automatically, even if you use weighted scoring.
Complex response evaluation
For questions that are more involved, it’s helpful to engage the stakeholders and subject matter experts most closely aligned with the topic of the question. For instance, a question about data security should be scored by someone in your IT team, rather than a department stakeholder.
Make your final selection
Now, you’re ready to pick the perfect vendor. Compare the proposal results side-by-side in an Excel document if you use a manual process, or in the proposal scoring dashboards in your RFP management platform. Hopefully, you’ll have a clear winner.
To explore the RFP process in more detail, download: The RFP process ebook
Sections to include in your RFP
- Project summary – Why are you seeking a solution?
- Company overview – What does your company do and who are your customers?
- Project background – Who is the project for? What is the current process or solution?
- Goals – What is the ideal outcome you’re hoping for?
- Scope – Which items in your list of criteria are must have, nice to have or not important?
- Budget – How much do you plan to spend?
- Compliance requirements – What must the vendor do to comply with government regulations and internal policy?
- RFP timeline – When is the proposal due? When will you make a final decision?
- Submission requirements – How would you like to receive proposals? How long should it be?
- Evaluation criteria – What factors are the highest priority? What decision factor matters most?
- RFP questions – What do you need to know to make your selection?
Tips for responding to a healthcare RFP
Responding to complex healthcare RFPs is time consuming. Indeed, healthcare RFPs are notoriously detailed and may include hundreds of questions spanning dozens of pages. Consequently, to improve outcomes in your organization, it’s important to focus on two elements: proposal efficiency and effectiveness
RFP response efficiency: How to win faster
Try a new proposal project management process
There are so many people and steps involved in responding to RFPs, and it’s difficult to keep everything organized. Without a clearly defined proposal process, confusion leads to delays and missed deadlines. Luckily, there are a few proven proposal project management strategies you can explore.
- RACI matrix – Organize your work by task and assign responsibilities to each item
- Proposal timeline – See a visual representation of each task required to meet the RFP deadline
- Project implementation plan – A detailed list of tasks and subtasks organized by due date
For more about improving the proposal process, explore the Proposal process ebook.
Create or optimize a knowledge library
Answering the same RFP questions over and over is tedious. However, you can avoid this frustration by creating and optimizing a knowledge library with your past RFP responses. Save common RFP questions and answers as well as proposal templates to speed up future responses.
While your proposal team can manually manage your content in a spreadsheet or Word document, it’s difficult to find the right answers, manage regular updates and ensure you’re using the right version of the answer. Certainly, anything is better than writing every response from scratch, but there’s a more efficient way.
Many organizations that manage multiple proposals per year find value in proposal software. This RFP response software centralizes collaboration and workflows while empowering proposal automation by suggesting answers to questions you’ve seen before.
Streamline subject matter experts collaboration
One common frustration in answering healthcare RFPs is the difficulty of getting information from subject matter experts (SMEs). As experts in their field, you need their input to ensure your proposal has the most accurate and compelling answers. However, they have a full workload and must balance their proposal role with many other responsibilities.
To streamline the process for your SMEs, use your knowledge library to complete as much of the proposal as possible before sending it to your SMEs. You may find up to 80 percent of the questions in any given RFP overlap with previous questions. By suggesting potential answers based on past proposals, you lighten the SMEs’ load and complete your proposal in less time.
RFP response effectiveness: How to win more often
Stop answering every RFP
The most reliable way to improve your win rate and effectiveness is to stop wasting time on RFPs you won’t win. You aren’t a fit for every opportunity, so you shouldn’t answer every RFP that comes your way. As you decide to bid or not to bid, consider the RFP deadline, requirements and deal-breaker factors.
Have an open and honest discussion with contributors. How likely are you to win this business? And, is the potential revenue worth the effort? Being more selective allows you to focus on the projects you’re the best fit for.
Download this helpful checklist to guide your to bid or no-bid discussions.
Master your messaging
There are a few questions you should ask yourself when reviewing your proposal messaging. Certainly, the evaluator reading your proposal will notice these things and may consider them red flags.
- Is the proposal compliant with the instructions? Is it complete?
- From beginning to end, does the proposal make sense? Are there contradictions?
- Does the content sound like your company? Does it use the right tone and terminology?
- Is the content technically accurate? Are there grammar errors or style inconsistencies?
For more helpful tips about creating winning RFP responses, check out this infographic: 7 steps to creating winning RFP responses.
Improve your executive summary and RFP cover letter
Show a little personality and make your proposal more memorable using your executive summary and RFP cover letter. Indeed, the executive summary provides a quick overview of the most important parts of your proposal. Then, the cover letter shares why you’re the perfect partner for the buyer. Remember to keep these documents concise, ideally, limited to a single page for the best results.
Download templates to help you get started: Executive summary template | Cover letter template
Where to find healthcare RFPs
If you’re looking to offer your organization’s goods or services to the businesses in the healthcare industry, you need to know how to find RFPs. Luckily, there are a handful of RFP databases available. These resources gather new healthcare RFP opportunities and provide them to potential vendors. Most of the services charge a small fee, but are be well worth it.
Healthcare RFP databases
HealthcareRFP.com provides a database for hospital and health system RFPs. The RFPs include opportunities for state and federal RFPs. Accordingly, the database is vast and search tools allow you to narrow the results by city, county, state or industry.
Specializing in government RFPs, BidNet provides a centralized database of RFP opportunities. While not specific to the healthcare industry, the website has robust filtering capabilities and customizable notifications, so you never miss an opportunity.
With dozens of healthcare categories and hundreds of open opportunities, RFPMart is another great healthcare RFP database. Their resources also include how-to videos, RFP examples and email alerts.
Healthcare RFP templates and examples
This healthcare RFP template is designed for an electronic health records system (EHR) procurement project. Created by the National Learning Consortium, the template helps ensure that organizations seeking an EHR have all the information they need to make an informed decision. In addition, the template includes clear and helpful instructions for use.
Looking for a contact center for your medical services? This RFP template is a good place to start. Questions cover a variety of topics including HR practices, software systems, processes and more.
This healthcare RFP is divided into two sections: RFP information and vendor response. While this RFP template is long, fortunately, the requirements of the RFP are clearly stated. Likewise, the vendor questions section is segmented by topic for quick reference and review.
This healthcare RFP example is for a “Test and Trace”, or T2 services. The RFP seeks service providers for COVID-19 contact tracing management. Consequently, it’s a good example of why healthcare RFP templates are so useful. With this example as a foundation, you can quickly adapt and release an RFP faster than ever.
This thorough RFP is a great example for healthcare RFP issuers as well as responders. The in-depth explanation, background, vendor requirements and scope set expectations for vendors. In addition, the wealth of information provided initially means less back and forth when the buyer is ready to go to contract.
Hospitals and health systems regularly issue RFPs to find support services for their EMR systems. Indeed, this RFP is a great example of a common healthcare RFP. The RFP from UC Davis Health is notable for its detailed guidelines, RFP criteria and background information.
Healthcare proposal examples
The Louisiana Department of Health provides lots of helpful documentation as a part of their efforts to encourage transparency. For example, you’ll find RFP responses, an RFP scoring summary as well as business and technical evaluations for each response on their website. If you’re looking to explore the RFP process from beginning to end, this is a great place to start.
This healthcare proposal example stands out thanks to it’s visual appeal. Indeed, the proposal format serves to communicate confidence and professionalism. In addition, the proposal is thorough and easy to read with helpful visual aids.
While you wouldn’t think that a 125-page RFP response would earn praise for brevity, that’s exactly why this proposal made our list of great examples. Indeed, when you explore this proposal, you’ll see that the responding organization kept their answers very direct and clear — making them stand out from the crowd.
Now that you’re armed with background information, the how-to guides and real-life examples, you’re ready to improve your healthcare RFP process. If you’re looking to learn even more about RFP best practices, we recommend starting with these blogs:
Resources for RFP issuers:
Resources for RFP responders: