Before signing an agreement with a particular vendor, it is crucial to sit down and outline your wish list- the Request for Proposal (RFP). This is an extensively detailed document, which leaves nothing to chance or guesswork. If it is not written into the document, even if a service was promised to you, it may very well be a service that you do not receive.

The RFP is used to seek bids and proposals from the pool of electronic health record vendors that you will be considering doing business with and as a basis for negotiations of the contract.

In the RFP you need to record all the features and services that you are looking to utilize in your system. Speaking to your colleagues and shopping around with available programs will aid in formulating necessary features for you. It is important to define responsibilities for you as well as the vendor such as who will be supplying the hardware for the system and who the Internet provider will be.

Your RFP will need to include a method of program upgrades, training and delivery expectations.

Now that you have formulated a succinct plan for your practice, you are ready to solicit services from electronic healthcare vendors.

Compare the vendor contract with your RFP. Note how many of their salient features match those that have been designated as important to you. Make sure that ongoing maintenance costs are spelled out in addition to the initial purchase costs and delineate what the cost will be over an extended period of time such as 5 years.

Once you have chosen the possible vendor, it is time to rev up your research.

Explore the opinions of independent references. Research the Internet and speak to your colleagues to see what others are saying about this company. Find out if this vendor is compatible with your server and the hospital system with which you are affiliated.

Obtain the resumes of the trainers that the company will send you to help with program implementation. You should be informed as to what kind of experience the trainers have in the system and how long they have been using it as well as whether or not they have certification in the program. A sample or depiction of a resume for a typical trainer is insufficient. You need the actual resumes. These are the people that will be ironing out the problems for you and answering all your questions. You need to know that they are prepared to do so with a minimum of stress and frustration on your part.

Utilizing a consulting service or program manager to develop your program and the negotiation process, will save time and stress. However, it is still incumbent upon you to be very familiar with the programs under consideration and if the features within the program are those that you consider important.

Do not sign your binding agreement until you have had your legal representative pore over the document to ensure that everything is proper.