Get IT and clinical representation on your buying team; both departments have different needs and considerations. Ask employees if they like the process of buying a car, says Steven Fox, principal at Post & Schell; if not, don't put them on the team. IT executives should offer advice but not make the final decision, he adds. That way, the team can go back to them, privately, during negotiation.
Before signing a contract, hammer out software licensing (on-site vs. SaaS), acceptance testing, warranties, confidentiality, limitations of liability and dispute resolution. Don't let vendors use de-identified patient data for any purpose unless they truly understand HIPAA compliance, recommends Daniel Schroeder, partner-in-charge of information assurance services at Habif, Arogeti & Wynne.