2019 Health IT Summit: Acquisitions Panel

Published: February 15, 2019

Acquisition ReformBusiness DevelopmentContracting TrendsHHSHealth ITInformation TechnologyInformation TechnologyInnovationVA

The AFCEA Health IT Summit was held on January 29 – 30, 2019 at the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel & Conference Center in Bethesda, Maryland to provide a platform for multiple panels to discuss the current and future of Health IT in the marketplace. Professionals from multiple Departments, including HHS, DHS, VA, and SSA, were present to share thoughts regarding IT Modernization and Improving Healthcare Outcomes through different avenues. Acquisitions Panel - Contracting for Modernization, Innovation, and Beyond! was one of the panels that focused on the acquisition of IT modernization and it provided insight into the future of the IT Procurement processes. Below is the list of participants for the Acquisition Panel:

  • ModeratorAaron Boyd - Senior Editor, Nextgov
  • Cameron Hernandez - Branch Chief, Program Support Branch, HHS
  • Tina Burnette - Executive Director for Acquisition Planning and Category Management, VA
  • Lyandra Emmanuel - Group Director of IT Contracts, CMS
  • Lori Ruderman - Buy smarter Initiative Lead, Senior Advisor, HHS-PSC

The moderator directed a question regarding the current on-going acquisition for emerging technology. Lori Ruderman confirmed there is a $49 million contract for Intelligent Automation/Artificial Intelligence (IAAI) solutions to create a catalog of new emerging technologies, predictive analytics, and AI, (Opportunity Report ID: 166316). The goal is to get a large number of vendors who can provide a variety of services to all of HHS. This is in-line with the overall movement to utilizing shared services more often, with the Buy Smarter initiative being one of the first programs to utilize this contract. She continued by  stating that the long term goal for this program is to eventually scale into a procurement vehicle. When the question was raised as to why HHS-PSC did not look at and/or utilize the NITAAC vehicles, Lori Ruderman explained that this new contract is anticipated to bring new vendors that have not previously worked in the federal space. Furthermore, the utilization of this contract is to help potentially new vendors grow in the federal space and “hold their hands through the process.” She went on to say, the term AI is used broadly and the agency is currently looking for various components like machine learning and predictive analytics that can work together. Moreover, some of the automation tools that they are currently focusing on include Robotic Process Automation (RPA) in hopes to prepopulate large sets of information in the acquisition process. Lyandra Emmanuel stated that this is also a goal for the CMS acquisition lifecycle modernization effort. HHS-CMS is currently looking at modernizing the acquisition process and eliminating paper processes. 

The moderator asked the panel to also discuss agile contracts and how they are being utilized. Lyandra Emmanuel stated CMS has been buying agile development from contracts, as well as trying to make the contracts move with the times so contractors get paid every two weeks for sprints.  CMS has begun to utilize shorter contracts, primarily 6 month increments for contracts, and moving away from long term contracts. The goal of the shorter contracts is to fashion contracts similar to the way IT development is trending. With the utilization of fixed price contracts, this creates an easy way to bring in new companies to the federal space and help the growth of vendor pools. This growth is important as a lot of potential new vendors are not on NITAAC contracts.

The entire panel also addressed the topic of OTAs and whether or not they should employ this process more. Cameron Hernandez stated HHS-ASBR recently split contracting shops and the HQ contracting has OTA authority. HHS-ASBR are currently looking at Public, Private Partnerships (P3) with the understanding that they have to engage with the industry early-on.  There is hope that the use of OTAs can be utilized for cost sharing and developing products that can not only be used in government but can become commercially viable products. Cameron Hernandez clarified that he hasn’t been using OTAs to the extent of DARPA, but is trying to learn their perks and potential problems. The moderator asked the other panelists if they are utilizing OTAs, if they have the authority, or other innovative authorities. Lori Ruderman stated HHS-PSC has looked into OTAs but decided their use is not needed. PSC started exploring the use of agile contracts and Statements of Objectives instead of SOWs. Tina Burnette clarified the VA has turned more attention to looking into partnering with vendors that have a deep understanding of their field.  This inventory management and partnering with vendors provides the ability to replace items at the lowest cost.  The VA has also began to explore Managed Service Providers (MSPs). Lyandra Emmanuel stated within the CMS the Quality Payment program that used ADELE BPA (Agile Delivery to Execute Legislative Endeavors BPA) can be looked at as an example of a recent utilization that wielded success. Working with vendors in a collaborative environment really worked well for CMS and Lyandra Emmanuel stated she hopes this is utilized more in the future. 

An audience member inquired about how quickly the panel believes the transition to as-a-service will occur. The VA is seeing movement to sunset their legacy system and in doing so, they are moving to a more modern approach (Buy First, Cloud, etc). The CMS’ first effort is fee-for-service system. However, once the CMS gets better at modernizing, they will likely look more into as-a-service. PSC Buy Smarter wants to leverage vendor and platform agnostic solutions by not necessarily replacing legacy systems, but to become more agile and use open source.

In conclusion, the participants quickly outlined some of their respective Department’s current acquisition processes and potential future operations. With the ever changing field of technology and IT, acquisition processes are experiencing changes to allow the procurement of these services to be more efficient for the Departments.

This panel was one of the ten discussion panels that occurred over the two day AFCEA Health IT Summit. For more information regarding the other panels, please refer to future posts to the Market Analysis page. For more information regarding the on-going requirement for Intelligent Automation/Artificial Intelligence (IAAI) solutions, services and products, please refer to Opportunity ID: 166316 in the GovWin Database.