In the 13 years that Cascade Healthcare Services has been providing Resuscitation Training we have reviewed, applied for, and won many RFP based contracts. In all those years we've learned a lot about the process and have identified a list of best practices for creating a solid RFP or RFQ for services in the Resuscitation and First Aid industry. So to keep it simple, here are the top 10 on our list of vendor must haves.
1.Do you require American Heart Association (AHA) Credentials? There may be internal requirements for AHA credentials or you may have ties to County, State, or National requirements that necessitate issuing a valid AHA issued card. Let's distinguish between "valid" and "meets requirements" of AHA. Valid means the card is issued on behalf of the AHA by the training center or training site. Many training companies have courses that contain the same content as an AHA course but the card issued is NOT issued by the AHA and will not satisfy the requirement when it specifies an AHA card. If you don't require AHA Credentials then it serves you well to ask for an equivalency. The training center will probably have more freedom to provide cost control measures if you allow them to shop several products.
2.Require your vendors to be a Training Center: The Heart Association decided years ago to run a training center model that empowers Authorized Training Centers to act autonomously, with respect to doing business. The Heart Association requires smaller providers to work with a Training Center as a “Training Site.” This means that the Heart Association does not work directly with them but rather through the Training Center in which they are affiliated. In most cases you will want to limit your RFP to Training Centers (and require their AHA Training Center #). Training Centers are typically larger organizations with continuity of service, demonstrated compliance with the AHA, and may because of their size have the financial resources and scalability to handle your requirements. This is not a carte blanche statement as there are always exceptions to the rule.
3.Let go of the "intellectual property" ownership clause! It's almost boilerplate language in RFPs. The problem is that vendors don't own the 3rd party material that they credential under so they have no legal authority to provide or grant ownership of this copy written material to the client. Anyone who agrees to do is unaware of these legal obstacles. Instead, consider this language: "any material created specifically for XYZ entity…". Example: When Cascade created AMA PRA Category 1 Credit™ classes for Sutter Health, that class material is covered by the contract and thereby are the property of the hospital.
4.Public offerings are a good thing! The vendor should have the ability to open up classes at your facility to the public and to manage those reservations without troubling you. By reserving some of the seats for the public, you bring in outside hospital and prehospital staff to your facility. It's a great way to network and recruit and you don’t do any of the work. If you do it right you will have a great vendor teaching great classes and you get the credit.
5.Require course offerings off-site. This is a big one that is seldom considered. For your program to be successful you want your employees to be able to take classes off campus at the vendor's place of business or at other locations around the city. If an employee has an emergency and misses a class they should be able to attend another class that your vendor is sponsoring within a week at another location. If you are willing to outsource, then require your vendor to open up space outside of your facility. IF you can’t find a Training Center that is willing or able to do that give us a call, we can.
6.Get References! We typically see requirements to prove that instructors have 10 years of experience and current instructor status as a requirement. We even see requirements to provide CV's for instructors. That might be necessary when dealing with a Training Site but back to the Training Center status above, a large AHA Training Center is going to be in compliance with the AHA and will by default meet those requirements. We think it’s better to ask for corporate references. A list of current clients that are of equal or larger size than your organization can tell you a lot about the vendor’s capability. Make sure you call them and ask questions about customer service, flexibility, scalability, and response times. Offer them a chance to come teach a class onsite, or visit one of theirs. We recommend asking for 3 or more client references. If you don’t get glowing reviews, buyer beware. Our clients love introducing us to colleagues, your vendor should have no problem finding the same.
7.Do they have insurance? We all know we live in a litigious age and one of the true benefits of a solid training partner is a demonstrated ability to show document retention and training compliance all backed up with robust insurance coverage. When something unfortunate happens and attorneys get involved you want a vendor that has at least $1 Million General Liability and $3 Million Professional Liability in place.
8.Don’t forget about customer support. Your vendor should have a proven process for getting students registered as well as a document retention and access process in place. This is important and no small task. You want to establish that the vendor sees you as a partner and they provide immediate telephone support and a web based portal with voucher codes to minimize the effort of your staff. Cascade has a deep customer service department with phone support and 24x7 manager coverage as well as a custom web portal built for your organization that allows your staff to register for classes and gives your admin staff real time access to track progress of training at the student level. If you need a class spun up in 24 hours either on-site or off-site, can your vendor make it happen?
9. Ask for more than just basic CPR or AHA Classes. When you find the right vendor partner it doesn't take long to see the positive impact to your organization. Financial, operational, and risk are all impacted. Our clients quickly begin asking for classes by the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) such as TNCC and ENPC, or the Neonatal Resuscitation Program (NRP) by the American Association of Pediatrics (AAP). Some vendors ask for custom classes that provide AMA PRA Category 1 Credit™ for physicians.
10.Partnerships are better than contracts. When you get your final list of potentials and you meet with them, ask yourself if these guys are partners, are they responsive, will they take on a project without management, provide advice and recommendations to improve efficacy, and reduce cost? Will they make your problems their problems? Ask for some examples. What do I mean? Example: Our client, David Grant Medical Center, at Travis AFB was given a mandate that all staff were to be ACLS certified. They asked for 4 additional ACLS classes within a month, taught during night shift. We asked questions, dug into the requirement, and ultimately discovered that the requirement was to get everyone "crash cart certified." We created that curriculum and provided the necessary training and saved our client thousands of dollars. On the topic of contracts. Unless you have extreme requirements that necessitate your vendors to do things like provide training in 4 cities across the US or something that requires investment in logistics, a contract term is not necessary. Cascade has no contract length in our agreements. Our clients are free to leave us whenever they want; they can give us 30 days to wind down scheduled classes and go wherever they like. If we do business without a contract at all that would be fine by me. I think in this line of work you are only as good as your last interaction. That never happens and that is because we are about providing world class training and the customer support to make our clients happy.
These are big ticket items that will make a huge impact on the long-term success of your program and maximize the investment you are making in sourcing a partner to provide your training. We have 36 hospital clients and some of the largest Fire/EMS departments in the US.