In July 2016, GSA announced the release of its new Health IT opportunity – the new Health IT Services Special Item Number (SIN 132-56). Since that time, GSA has worked to educate both industry and Government, to act as a bridge between the two sides, and to collaborate with both to ensure the full advantages of the new SIN are understood and optimized.
We recently sat down with Marcelo Olascoaga, Director of Customer Engagement and Solutions Development Division (CESDD) for the Office of Information Technology Category (ITC) in GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service (FAS). Marcelo leads a department responsible for four SINs within the IT Schedule, including SIN 132-56 and 132-51. He shared with us insights about the differences, the advantages the new SIN offers to both sides of the Healthcare industry, and his team’s efforts to support its adoption.
What is the Health IT SIN?
In announcing the release of the new SIN in 2016, Kay T. Ely, Assistant Commissioner, Office of Information Technology Category (ITC), noted the new SIN intended to simplify “the procurement process, making it easier for IT Schedule 70 customers to get access to new and emerging Health IT services. At the same time, it fosters competition and promotes small business participation. The new Health IT SIN gives industry partners a way to distinguish their Health IT services offerings from other IT related services already under the IT Schedule 70 program, letting them stand out to agencies seeking Health IT services. The Health IT SIN also supports the Federal Health IT Strategic Plan to expand adoption of Health IT services, reduce prices, advance secure and interoperable health information solutions, and strengthen Healthcare delivery systems.”
How has the Message and the Opportunity been Communicated?
We started by reaching out to SIN holders and asking questions about how we could make the adoption process better. We heard people asking for a model we used to follow, of special interest groups connecting directly with industry and Government to provide education and assistance. We asked for industry participation to help with that outreach and now have five subgroups focused on the effort.
Connecting with groups like AFCEA Bethesda who are focused on Health IT we’ve moved forward with great partnership and collaborative opportunities that have allowed us to share information that this new SIN exists, what can be done with it and the benefits it provides. Jackie Pinkston, DHA’s Chief for Health IT Contracting Operations, recently spoke to the SIG to share DHA’s acquisition strategy for 2018, which includes a focus on the Health IT SIN.
DHA has been a great supporter of the new SIN and almost a year ago, awarded the first major contract to use it, a $15.6M task order intended to help effectively manage and track blood donor registration, screening, blood products, and associated record keeping for military and civilian blood donors.
Recognizing that it does not want to create its own contracts, DHA is a proponent of using the GSA Schedules. The advantages DHA experiences is an opportunity equally available to all agencies. For instance, the simplified procurement process making it easier for agencies to get access to new and emerging Health IT services and the opportunity to more easily identify Health IT solutions and experts within the Healthcare market.
What are Some of the Advantages for Government?
The new SIN creates a universal set of labor categories containing IT and medical professionals that are experienced in Health IT projects. Before the creation of the Health IT SIN, it was a forced effort to fit needed expertise within the right categories but now, you can have medical professionals and a range of other experts all under the Health IT SIN. This allows for a broader range of expertise to be available to the Government.
The Health IT SIN can be used in combination with the hardware, software, security, and other SINs within the same acquisition or task order to provide Government agencies with a complete solution under one task order. The capability of receiving a complete solution under one task order creates many benefits such as time savings, which allows agencies to deliver services and products much quicker.
What are Some of the Advantages for Industry?
Having everything under one SIN allows industry to sell more efficiently and more competitively to Government because they don’t necessarily need to apply to be under multiple SINs.
There is also a roll-out anticipated later this year that will add Order Level Materials to the IT Schedule 70. Vendors will be able to provide the Government, or to obtain, all of the products needed that are not on the Schedule, anything that may not have been considered at the beginning, and the professional services of someone not originally on the contract or Schedule whose services are now required. Incorporating Order Level Materials is one of the evolutions to the IT Schedule 70 that GSA has taken to provide the Government with the flexibility it needs to fulfill its mission to the citizens.
What Resistance are you Seeing from the Government Acquisition Community?
It is not a matter of resistance but one of informing Government agencies that the Health IT SIN exists, and that Health IT requirements can be fulfilled with the Health IT SIN, along with other Schedule 70 SINs, to obtain all of the needed components for a successful project outcome. Thus, part of our role is to educate Government on what is available and how to use it. Our educational effort doesn’t stop with Government offices; it also includes the vendor community. It is vitally important that we educate the vendor community, and to also work with them to make their products and services easily available to Government.
With industry, we want to educate Government contracting officers to begin using the Health IT SIN. We believe that once they see evidence of the effectiveness of the SIN, the uptake will be stronger because success would have been demonstrated.
What Informational Opportunities and Supports are Available?
We have an open door for industry to meet with us, as many times as they need, to clarify, and to discuss the Health IT SIN and general IT Schedule 70 topics. In addition, we will meet with their potential Government clients to address questions and other matters that concern the ordering agency when using the SIN. Sometimes a potential client wants to be reassured from another Government entity that all they have heard about the contract and its features is possible. We also provide a free service to Government agencies in reviewing a solicitation to ensure it is within scope, and can also assist crafting complex orders. Having communication with both Government and industry allows us to better understand what services are available and how they can be acquired for the Government to get exactly what it needs.
Healthcare is a multi billion dollar industry with the citizen at the heart of it. We have to get it right and the potential the new Schedule offers to meet this need – it is what makes this timely and a worthwhile effort.
While his main role is to lead the CESDD in developing solutions for Government agencies, Marcelo Olascoaga also oversees the Health IT Special Item Number within IT Schedule 70. The Health IT Special Item Number helps agencies realize cost savings and efficiencies while modernizing and expanding their Health IT capabilities. Health IT improves the quality of Healthcare, prevents medical errors, protects data, increases administrative efficiencies, and decreases paperwork.
Previously, Mr. Olascoaga was a Government contractor and an entrepreneur managing a start-up technology company conducting business in the United States and Latin America. Afterwards, he resumed his Federal career in a start-up Government agency under the Department of the Treasury, where he was responsible for Enterprise Architecture, Capital Planning and Investment Control, and IT Strategic Planning. He continued his Federal career as a CIO for an agency within USDA before joining the General Services Administration (GSA).