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High-tech hospital procurements require more innovative process

As more hospitals rely on new innovations to provide patient care, there are special legal considerations around the procurement of these technologies, Toronto health lawyer Michael Gleeson tells AdvocateDaily.com.

“So many hospitals use information systems, software or advanced technologies that help enhance the delivery of patient care,” says Gleeson, partner with DDO Health Law. “From a procurement perspective, it can be challenging to fully understand the marketplace and have a sense of what these new technologies are capable of and what they require in order to be implemented and used.”

As a result, he says the acquisition system has to be as innovative as the technology.

“It’s not ideal to do a standard procurement process that sets out the requirements, and then wait for and evaluate the response,” Gleeson says. “When it comes to the acquisition of information technology, an innovative process is much more helpful.”

It may involve a dialogue with a short list of vendors before asking for final submissions. This conversation allows hospitals to ask questions in order to fully understand the solutions that are available from different vendors, he says.

“For example, a hospital may want to ask what software or hardware is required or how the solution interacts with other software tools or databases already in use,” Gleeson says.

Another consideration around the procurement of tech solutions is information protection.

“Privacy is a huge issue in all fields right now, but for health care, it's especially relevant because we're dealing with people's personal health information,” Gleeson says. “Hospitals need to understand how the vendor deals with protecting it, as well as what safeguards are in place.”

It’s important to consider how a new solution will tie in with other integral parts of the hospital's IT infrastructure.  

“Does it require information to be sent outside of Canada? If so, to what countries and how is that information safeguarded there? It's also very relevant to get a sense of the timing for implementation,” he says.

Other issues to discuss include:

  • if it's a web-based solution, how does the vendor ensure privacy  
  • who provides training staff  
  • what types of updates and upgrades are included in the purchase price

“One thing that we keep telling our clients is that when they are looking at these new technologies or when putting out RFPs for a particular solution, look at the big picture,” Gleeson says. “Take into account what other impacts this solution might have, and make sure the evaluation process factors in all these additional costs or interactions that might be relevant to a particular purchase.”

He notes that this is where using a dialogue RFP really shines.

“An innovative procurement process provides a greater understanding to the hospital,” Gleeson says. “It also ensures a more transparent and fair process for the vendors, so it’s in everybody's benefit.”

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