Population Health

Population Health: An RFA Market

You probably know the acronyms RFI (request for information) and RFP (request for proposal), but you probably don't know what an RFA is. Over the last few years, RFAs—or requests for anything—have become a reasonably common occurrence when healthcare organizations are looking for a healthcare IT vendor solution in the complex areas of population health and value-based care.

Healthcare organizations who have never tackled population health management before, and are therefore unsure as to what they might need in a new vendor platform, often incorporate any and all population health requirements they can think of into their RFA.  

If I were in their shoes, jumping into population health and value-based care for the first time, I think I'd do the same thing.

To some vendors, a population health RFA is exciting. They see it as an opportunity to provide everything—i.e., sell more product. In the words of one former consultant and now health system executive, it is an opportunity to "sell new consulting services and make it up as you go." To these vendors, RFAs look, smell, and feel like a potentially large sale. To other vendors, RFAs are alarming. They are a warning flag. A discouragement. These vendors know they won't be able to deliver the full solution being requested and are worried about the client's success, not their own.  

Cheers to the latter vendors. They are few and far between.

The RFA worries us at KLAS. The need for HIT platforms that deliver in the population health space is increasingly evident, and the search for them is very real. In new research KLAS is doing on healthcare IT vendor practices and approaches, one factor stands out more than any other in distinguishing high-performing vendors from the rest of the pack, and it’s not something we expected.

It's a sales approach that is extremely disciplined and customer-success focused. Sounds simple, but it's not. Nobody wants to say "no," especially with a big sales quota staring him or her in the face.  

But our research tells us that the healthcare vendors who are the strongest performers and are viewed most favorably by their clients on a long-term basis are those who will not sell something unless they know for certain they will be able to fully deliver it.  

Which brings us back to RFAs.  

Over the last several years, the way some vendors have responded to RFAs has been a bit frightening and has led the population health IT market to its current state of largely unfulfilled needs and unmet expectations. This in turn has shifted population health toward becoming a replacement market. 

In an upcoming population health report, KLAS will be reporting on these shifts and on how vendors are responding to them.