09 Jan Department of Health and Family Services cancels technology-related Request for Proposal
Madison, Wis. – The Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services, citing a significant number of questions related to a Request for Proposal on two information technology projects, has canceled the RFP.
The department said it has received questions from prospective vendors about the need for additional clarity surrounding both the scope of work and extent of services involved in the projects, which are part of a competitive bidding process.
One project asks for an assessment of the department’s IT architecture and systems integration and for future recommendations, while the other seeks recommendations for statewide health information exchange services and solutions for health information exchange business and technical infrastructure.
In a statement released today, DHFS said it has determined that it’s in the best interest of the state to cancel the procurement as originally written and posted. The department said it will take the opportunity to reach out to potential vendors, providers, and other interested parties by convening an open session, or Vendor Conference, to “openly and publicly” discuss the department’s need for input on such initiatives.
The department also indicated that combining two projects in one RFP contributed to vendor concerns.
“Efforts to achieve administrative efficiencies and economies of scale by combining two related but distinct projects in one Request for Proposals has resulted in questions as to how the two projects identified in the RFP may overlap and intersect,” the department said. “Given the high level of importance in effectively executing both of these projects, additional input and consideration is merited.”
The department said it reserves the right to update and reissue a new Request for Proposals at a future date.
The original RFP was issued Dec. 3, during the holiday season, and established a Jan. 18 deadline for vendors to submit proposals. The winning contractor was to be notified by Feb. 11, with the agreement to start on March 3.
State government has been dogged by information technology projects that have experienced delays and cost overruns. Some fingers have been pointed at the state’s procurement process, particularly its suitability for large information technology implementations.
Peter Stombom, former CIO for Meriter Hospital in Madison, has raised concerns about what he believes is a fast timetable for the DHFS projects, and the lack of budgetary specifics in the RFP. Strombom, now president of Strombom Associates, said the state procurement process may be fine for non-technology projects, but may not be appropriate for IT.
“The process, itself, is not conducive to a good outcome from an IT standpoint,” he said.
Strombom, who also is the co-founder of the College of Health Information Management Executives, said if the state of Wisconsin wants to create interoperability for medical records as part of a statewide health information exchange, there should be an understanding of the priorities that must be met. He said there also is a need to understand the total cost to the consumer, the providers, and the state before embarking on such a project.
“We know that the state has developed estimates of cost, but why are they not being made available to the industry or the public?” Strombom asked. “Any proposal does need to understand the technologies that are available today, and how those technologies can be applied to rural hospitals, physicians groups, community hospitals, and academic institutions.”
To ensure a successful project, Strombom said the state needs knowledgable people to become intimately involved in the initiative. “If this is to become a practical project rather than a political statement,” he said, “then reality must become a practical part of the initiative.”
Is Wisconsin vendor lab?
Earlier this year, an audit into state information technology projects recommended best practices that include performance incentives in vendor contracts. The audit reviewed 19 projects for completed IT projects, and reported that while nine included penalties to discourage inadequate contractor performance, none of the 19 projects included performance incentives. It defined performance incentives as bonus payments linked to the technical performance of an IT system.
State Sen. Mary Lazich, R-New Berlin, blasted the procurement process, suggesting the state has become a kind of laboratory for information technology vendors. “We seem to be nothing but a research and development ground for vendors,” she said. “They can come in and take advantage of us and run up costs.”
• New Medicaid system the latest IT project to confound state government
• Elections Board reaches agreement with Accenture on computerized voter registration
• Wisconsin’s $22.7 million voter registration system not up to par
• Another state technology project is delayed
• Morgan, Anderson claim state IT project management is on the right track