Buying better

Thanks to the public sector’s evolving purchasing practices, selling e-health and IT solutions to governments is not necessarily a big deal anymore, according to one vendor.

Barry Burk, general manager of Health Care and Life Sciences for IBM, says governments are changing their procurement processes for the better, and creativity is the key.

“Governments are moving towards the openness of the procurement process,” said Burk. “They no longer say specifically what they want in an e-health solution.”

Gone are the days, Burk said, when government would describe the solution or piece of technology they needed, ask a vendor to describe how it could meet that need and then dictate pricing. Now government will lay out the business problem and ask the vendor, or a group of vendors, for alternative solutions to meet the requirements.

“In that way there is a lot more creativity,” said Burk. “It allows technology and solution providers responding to RFPs to be more creative.”

Rather than generating hundreds of pages of requirements and proposals, purchasing processes now provide more give and take and a better solution to the customer at the end of the day, according to Burk.

“My view of dealing with the public sector, and I‘ve been doing it for a long time, is that it can take longer,” said Burk. “But in more and more cases now, where government procurement has a solid vision of where they want to go as a business and where IT or e-health solutions fit in to that process, that’s not nearly as long as people might think, or has been in the past.”

Burk acknowledges that processes that allow for openness and creativity sometimes make it difficult to respond.

“One of the things that the vendor community needs to do is to be very clear about the benefits of its solutions, very clear in describing them, and not just overwhelm people with information,” said Burk.

Burk suggested that, rather than just including emphasizing detail in responses to RFPs; vendors need to focus on the business problem. The more the RFP, or a process, allows sellers to focus on the business problem, the more specific vendors can be in terms of what their solution does and that will speed up the process.

“It will be less cumbersome and less laborious to respond and easier to evaluate and get to a deal quicker, and given that we are all doing this for the right reason, it will result in a benefit to the health care system earlier.”

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