In an aim to solicit the most competitive bid for goods or services, healthcare organizations frequently issue a traditional Request for Proposal, or RFP, to various vendors. While a traditional RFP may get you the best price on that shiny new CT scanner or beds for your new hospital wing, it may not always be the most effective way to solicit proposals for services.
Sure, an RFP provides an objective, apples-to-apples way to compare products, but the purchasing of services is often different. Services can be significantly more customized than products. You may know exactly what kind of product you need, yet when it comes to purchasing a service you may benefit from being more flexible.
An RFP predetermines the right solution for a problem. And while that may make sense for some product purchases, it can mean missed opportunities for services. For example, an RFP for logistics services may request pricing for your predetermined routes, but a strong potential service partner may have concepts around how to significantly optimize such routes. In a traditional RFP, that opportunity may be missed.
So, what's the alternative? Is there a different approach that can yield the benefits of competition while still enabling the value-adding impact of potential service providers? I would suggest the following:
- Create an RFI that asks open questions about service offerings, vision, strategies, process and direction. Distribute it to leading vendors.
- After you review, contact one or two companies that most closely match your vision, and bring them in individually to do an assessment.
- Compare proposals. Finalist providers should be able to give you comprehensive and tailored proposals that allow you to make a fully-informed purchase decision.
Healthcare executives are under a constant mandate to develop innovative ways to reduce costs while improving care, but they don't have to do that alone. By shifting from traditional RFPs to a more open competitive process, providers can enlist their vendor partners' expertise to help them disrupt the status quo.