Objectives: Procurement's important role in healthcare decision making has encouraged criticism and calls for greater collaboration with health technology assessment (HTA), and necessitates detailed analysis of how procurement approaches the decision task.
Methods: We reviewed tender documents that solicit medical technologies for patient care in Canada, focusing on request for proposal (RFP) tenders that assess quality and cost, supplemented by a census of all tender types. We extracted data to assess (i) use of group purchasing organizations (GPOs) as buyers, (ii) evaluation criteria and rubrics, and (iii) contract terms, as indicators of supplier type and market conditions.
Results: GPOs were dominant buyers for RFPs (54/97) and all tender types (120/226), and RFPs were the most common tender (92/226), with few price-only tenders (11/226). Evaluation criteria for quality were technical, including clinical or material specifications, as well as vendor experience and qualifications; "total cost" was frequently referenced (83/97), but inconsistently used. The most common (47/97) evaluative rubric was summed scores, or summed scores after excluding those below a mandatory minimum (22/97), with majority weight (64.1 percent, 62.9 percent) assigned to quality criteria. Where specified, expected contract lengths with successful suppliers were high (mean, 3.93 years; average renewal, 2.14 years), and most buyers (37/42) expected to award to a single supplier.
Conclusions: Procurement's evaluative approach is distinctive. While aiming to go beyond price in the acquisition of most medical technologies, it adopts a narrow approach to assessing quality and costs, but also attends to factors little considered by HTA, suggesting opportunities for mutual lesson learning.
Keywords: Biomedical technology; Group purchasing; Health policy; Healthcare decision making.