NHS Software Procurement Requirements

NHS refers to the set of public health care system within UK. It is one of the world’s largest publicly funded healthcare services provider. To ensure efficiency, egalitarian, and comprehensiveness, NHS requires a robust software application for patients’ records management that can handle big volumes of patients’ data, provide quick access, and be user friendly enough not to scare away the patient attendants or cause fuss during operations. This document will discuss the procurement of such a software application, focusing on the requirements, software capabilities, the criteria for selecting best supplier, and the approaches suitable for arriving at the best decision.

Software capabilities

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An orderly approach to the procurement procedure will enable the NHS acquire a software application for patients records management that will optimize the benefits of its investments. The software should be capable of enhancing the health care system in providing high quality, and cost effective patient records management system.  The software application should be capable of handling multiple applications which can run concurrently across the system departments and offer a variety of modules which will suit different departments handling patient’s data in an efficient way. This may include the customer profile details module that allows the attendant to key in all the customers important details relating to the field, the accounting module which will enable the accountant to maintain customers bill records, and also a module that will enable the doctor to fill in the prescription of customers diagnosis and keep track record of customer’s details for future reference.

 In this era of software hacking and virus attacks, the software need to be secure enough to protect the patients data and also protect the hardware from crashing. The software should also be dynamic in that it should allow further development, improvements, and be compatible with the emerging hardware technologies.

Criteria to select the supplier

For a successful procurement, the NHS must involve qualified procurement personnel who can understand the requirements and the standards for the software application, understand the market structure, and are conversant with the health care system.

The procurement team must come up with the software requirements that the supplier should fulfill, advertise for the tender and shortlist the qualified suppliers whose software products fits the requirements.

Approaches used to make the decision

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Request for information (RFI)

This approach aims at obtaining cost estimates and information about suppliers. These estimates include estimates like annual revenue, number of employees, and the experience of the supplier in software installation. This approach focuses on getting to know the supplier, the products and also the capabilities. After analyzing the supplier, the responses are presented in form of a matrix. This approach is quicker for it requires relatively less time to create, analyze the responses, and respond appropriately. This approach is very appropriate when there is little time or when there is a need for a faster change in the management culture.  Demonstrations are typically critical as well in this approach of supplier selection.

Dog-and-pony show

In this approach, the organisation poses a few questions to guide in the preparation of one to two hours presentation by the candidate suppliers. These presentations are made at the offices of the procurement department, or at the suppliers’ offices. This approach offers an opportunity to determine the software capability and whether the supplier is compatible with the organisation through interaction. This approach requires an active involvement in the procurement process by the procurement officers and also involves clear demonstration of the functioning software or its prototype.

The dog-and-pony approach is more appropriate for a successful and software procurement process. This is because it gives an overview of the supplier, a room for discussion on the product capabilities, a chance for the supplier to acquire more information about the organisation. This relates to the key requirements in every functional area of the software application, cost, and the ratio of revenue cost to be channeled into further software development.

 The procurement officers also gets the taste of the functional area of the software long before it is implemented, and gets a chance to know the future of the software application in terms of continued product development . They also get to know how well these developments will fit into the organisation growth strategies. There is also a room to discuss the maintenance and support that the supplier is willing to provide for the software product.

Shortlisting supplier candidates

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When shortlisting the suppliers, the checklist must include key requirements which will ensure that NHS ends up with a software application for patient records management that is applicable, relevant and robust enough to carry out all the required processes and keep a sound track of data entry which is easy to retrieve.

The supplier must demonstrate a good knowledge of the organisation requirements to be implemented in the software application.  The software product must be relevant to the kind of the job beforehand. The cost of the software should be reasonable and proportional to the strength of the software application. The cost of future development of the software should also be put into consideration. This will reduce excessive and inappropriate operational cost. The procurement team should also select the supplier with the software product that fits appropriately into growth strategies of the organisation. The supplier should have a vast knowledge in the software development field and be conversant with the likely challenges the software is likely to encounter and how to counter them. The selection of the supplier should also be determined by the willingness of the supplier to provide training to the members of staff who are in direct contact with the software.

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