The Future of Health IT Acquisitions

Federal acquisition specialists anticipate restructured processes Since the beginning of…

February 06, 2023

Federal acquisition specialists anticipate restructured processes

Since the beginning of the Covid-era, health IT organizations have moved toward building stronger relationships with industry and agency partners. The goal is to make meaningful change while preserving the integrity and efficiency of credible acquisition processes in the new year and beyond, said panelists discussing the future of acquisitions at AFCEA Bethesda’s 15th Annual Health IT Summit.

Government leaders shared insights into the current acquisition process and recommended upgrades. To date, organizations have leveraged automation and technology to overcome challenges, from interoperability obstacles to data sharing barriers. They have shifted business processes to meet the demands of remote work.  Building relationships and exchanging insights throughout the acquisition community has emerged as a proven means of developing more resilient acquisition processes in healthcare.

Federal Agency Acquisitions

Before taking action to improve acquisitions, however, organizations must establish a firm understanding of how the process works, panelists said. “Before passing on work or accepting work, you have to understand the work. Don’t just chase the money. Can you deliver on the work? If you go after the money and drop the ball, that money may not be there the next time,” said Anita Allen, Small Business Specialist of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

First, assess supply chains for vulnerabilities and review contingency plans in the event of disruptions. Before establishing partnerships with vendors, organizations should thoroughly vet them. This is the time to discover issues that could result in the disruption of operations. Address these issues now and mitigate potential problems as they arise.

Mike Parrish, Chief Acquisition Officer of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), reminded listeners that the government shouldn’t overengineer a system. Healthcare entities that know their pain points should use that knowledge to improve the acquisition process in ways that align with their missions.

Rightsizing IT Acquisitions

“When most people think ‘small business,’ they think about ‘mom and pop’ shops,” said panel member Andy Jernell, Director, Division of IT of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). “In the IT space, some businesses of 200 to 500 people classify as small businesses.” Though the defining characteristics of a “small business” may be ambiguous at times, businesses of all sizes can benefit from acting to improve the acquisition process. By remaining transparent with struggles and successes — and being proactive in all stages of procurement — companies can grow capacity for developing solutions to improve acquisitions.

Panelists urged businesses (especially smaller vendors) to know and nurture their value. Focus on the unique skills that highlight a business’s competitive edge, they said. Panelists urged participants to take advantage of resources available to help them navigate the acquisition process.

Collaboration and Process Refinement

Organizations eager to speed the modernization of acquisition processes in the health IT arena should dismantle silos (of data, processes, and ownership). Integrated processes and enhanced collaboration support the digitization of procurement systems.

Using acquisition as the basis of stakeholder discussions exposes systemic issues, the first step in remedying them. Networking with industry members can catalyze the discovery of solutions, including improvements to interoperability and data use. Above all, organizations should remain agile and work toward a state of sustained evolution in the realm of health IT acquisitions.

At its core, procurement is a people-based job. Working together in 2023 and beyond, the acquisition community can support the health IT ecosystem in attaining unprecedented levels of resilience.


Thought Leadership