Shifting Priorities in the Upcoming FY21 Budget

Lloyd McCoy Jr.

By Lloyd McCoy, Market Intelligence Manager

With the start of the FY21 fiscal year just a few months away, the debate between the executive and legislative branches over priorities and tradeoffs in the FY21 budget will soon begin in earnest. At the heart of the discussion will be on what changes need to be made to the FY21 budget request presented in February, given the current environment.

Areas like artificial intelligence already have seen increased funding support in the request, but we’ll see more focus on areas specific to robotic process automation, security analytics and data mining — due to the ways agencies have had to adapt to conduct their missions.

It’s safe to say that every federal department will ultimately receive a budget that reflects the changing times. Additionally, it’s also safe to say that the priorities reflected in the upcoming budget will be needed indefinitely — to remain vigilant against future threats.

Here are some of the primary federal players that could see the biggest changes in the makeup and composition of their FY21 budget request: Read more of this post

FY21 Civilian Budget Request: Look Past the Budget Cuts

By Jessica Parks, Analyst

The president’s fiscal year 2021 budget request has been released, and while you may be laser-focused on this year’s sales, you can bet your government customers are already thinking about next year’s priorities. While the nearly across-the-board cuts at the civilian agencies are grabbing headlines, a deeper dive reveals a treasure trove of high-level plans at a few of the biggest agencies. Factor the following into your FY21 strategy:

Department of Homeland Security

DHS is the top civilian spender on IT and there are some definite growth areas in the agency for FY21. FEMA stands out as a fertile ground for IT vendors as the agency looks to tackle multiple large projects in FY21:

  • Continuing to develop a single cloud-based grants management platform
  • Updating its legacy financial management system
  • Bolstering the efforts of its Enterprise Analytics division to improve infrastructure and data analytics 

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Spending Bills Provide Clues to NEW Federal Money

Tom O'Keefe

By Tom O’Keefe, Consultant

While there’s been political grandstanding around agency funding in the last few years, the current Democratic-led House committee is steadily advancing spending bills so that the full House can vote on them. Hopefully they’ll be sent to the Senate with plenty of time for negotiations, so they are on the President’s desk no later than October 1, 2019 (the start of FY20).

It looks like the House will be pushing several minibuses, or packages of spending bills, to the full floor over the next few weeks. In most cases these bills are significantly higher than the administration’s request, so agencies won’t be as cash strapped as they have the last few years.

While appropriations bills aren’t the best places to go hunting for opportunities, they do sometimes provide us some clues to new programs and initiatives starting up at agencies. Technology vendors might want to keep on top of these:
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Government Health IT and the Promise of AI

Lloyd McCoy Jr.

By Lloyd McCoy, Market Intelligence Manager

The government’s health agencies want you to know that they need your help proving out use cases and applications for artificial intelligence and machine learning. That was one of the main takeaways from last week’s Federal Healthcare Day where the Department of Veterans Affairs and National Institutes of Health convened with industry partners to talk about advancements and opportunities.

Artificial intelligence adoption in government has the potential to spread faster than in the private sector. Because of the government’s scale, spend (about $1 billion will be spent on health-related artificial intelligence research this year) and breadth, a success story in one agency can spread rapidly to other areas.

There are three main areas where government hopes to take advantage of artificial intelligence:

I. Managing the Data Tsunami

‘Data tsunami’ is a term you may have heard before within the context of big data. The healthcare sector is probably a close second to the military in terms of data generation and consumption. NIH funds hundreds of thousands of researchers, each with their unique computing and storage needs. Making sense of large data sets in hybrid cloud environments is a massive undertaking and NIH wants to leverage AI so that the data and insights are accessible, interoperable and reusable. Given the fluid nature of both the research and clinical side of health, it’s hard to model what the demand is going to be. If you’re in the analytics space, note that the health agencies want to partner with vendors who are in it for the long haul. Show that you can handle uncertainty in storage and data consumption.

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VA Seeking Analytics Tools to Enhance Veteran Care

Tomas OKeefe_65x85by Tomas O’Keefe, Senior Analyst

Some recent developments suggest that the Department of Veterans Affairs is starting to get organized and introducing more advanced analytics capabilities into its environment.

One of the new tools being introduced into the VA environment is a program called Joint Legacy Viewer, nicknamed Janus. Janus is going to give VA employees a significantly better ability to view medical information from the Defense Health Agency in a single screen. Additional capability will be added to the program to provide the ability for clinicians to order medication and other necessities based on the information on the screen. As more and more medical information is available via Janus, the VA will turn towards analytics to predict care for particular populations of veterans.

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Biggest Health IT Opportunities Ever – Coming Soon

Lloyd McCoy_65x85by Lloyd McCoy Jr., Consultant

Last week more than 1,400 government officials and industry representatives from the health IT community met in Orlando for the Defense Health IT Symposium.  This conference allowed senior government stakeholders to give updates on some of the major initiatives within DHA and the Military Health System (MHS).  Altogether over $50 billion a year is spent on DOD healthcare with about $2 billion that DHA allocates to IT.

Here are a few of the key upcoming priorities IT products manufacturers selling into the DHA and other entities within MHS should know about:

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New Iteration of VA Contract Could Surpass $12B Ceiling

Tomas OKeefe_65x85by Tomas O’Keefe, Senior Analyst

Department of Veterans Affairs recently released an RFI for the next Transformation Twenty-One Total Technology (T4) vehicle, T4 Next Generation (NG). T4 is the VA’s major systems development contract in support of general information technology (IT), health IT, and telecommunications, to include services and incidental hardware, for customer requirements that vary across the entire spectrum of existing and future technical environments. In short, T4 is one of the most important VA contracts for COTS vendors to be aware of because the current iteration has a $12B ceiling with T4 NG expected to surpass this ceiling.

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A Roadmap for Health IT

Lloyd McCoy_65x85by Lloyd McCoy Jr., Consultant

In President Obama’s first weekly address back in January 2009, he called for every American to have an electronic health record by 2014. His statement at the time did not seem out of reach. After all, the benefits of consolidation and integration within Health IT were clear; lower costs and more efficiency would save money and save lives. It was a no brainer and the Department of Health & Human Services, Veterans Affairs, and Department of Defense would lead the charge.Lloyd Health IT

Several years later, after cost overruns, political squabbling, bureaucratic infighting, and technical challenges the public Health IT space has seen its fair share of battle scars. In the last 18 months alone we have witnessed the VA and DOD abandon efforts to develop a unified electronic health record, the failed initial launch of the Affordable Care Act website, and an outdated electronic scheduling system at the VA, which contributed to the ongoing scandal over excessive wait times for veterans.

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New Pentagon Health Record Procurement Offers IT Opportunities

Rick Antonucci_65x85By Rick Antonucci, Analyst

The Pentagon has released procurement information for their new Electronic Health Record (EHR) to be released by 2016 as part of the Defense Healthcare Management Systems Modernization (DHMSM) Program. The Draft RFP  has been released by SPAWAR and procures a replacement EHR for the Armed Forces Health Longitudinal Technology Application (AHLTA).

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Reprograming the IPO Could Create New Opportunities with Electronic Health Records

Tomas OKeefe_65x85by Tomas O’Keefe, Senior Analyst

The future of the Interagency Program Office (IPO) is up in the air. Originally designated to develop an integrated electronic health record (iEHR) between the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense, the office used to boast a budget in the hundreds of millions of dollars. However, with the decision earlier this year by the Department of Defense to pursue its own EHR, the buzz seems to be that most of the IPO’s budget is being reprogrammed. We continue to hear from both DOD and VA officials that there is still the goal of having an integrated and interoperable EHR, but expect both DOD and VA to pursue their own solutions at this point, while maintaining an open dialogue about how the disparate systems can still work together.

At AFCEA Bethesda’s Health IT Day in mid-November Dr. Theresa Cullen, the Chief Medical Informatics Officer at VA, discussed one of the likely solutions to the data sharing challenges between the VA and DOD with an update to VA’s current EHR system termed VistA Evolution. VistA Evolution is relying on an agile development schedule to roll out new interfaces and applications in short development timeframes in the hope of providing “disruptive evolution” to the overall program suite by introducing new technologies. VistA is a legacy system that the VA has relied upon for quite some time, but it operates off a fundamental architecture that can be updated to meet many of the needs of today, including enhancing interoperability with DOD systems, and the only barrier to updating VistA seemed to be cost. With money now freed from a potentially defunct IPO, expect the VA to move ahead on an aggressive update schedule, with several contracts to work on VistA already awarded.

Dr. Cullen is veryiEHR Blog conscious of how the next stage in the development of the applications and databases that handle health information will be handled. Health information on VA systems remains siloed and while the Department has made progress addressing this challenge, it seemingly pales in comparison to the task of being able to interface with DOD medical systems. This may be the future of the IPO, to act as more of a governance and policy agent to determine the standards that the VA and DOD EHRs have to operate off of, rather than as a functional office that actually undertakes development opportunities.

This reprogramming could open up new opportunities for COTS vendors who can provide CRM solutions, health data and records management, and middleware and SOA tools to ensure the differing systems can actually talk to each other. These joint efforts to strengthen interoperability remain high-visibility and have a lot of support on the Hill, with language in the 2014 VA spending that would actually mandate that DOD and VA operate off of one EHR. Expect the Departments to keep this in mind when pursuing their solutions in the event that the law requiring a single EHR actually passes, however unlikely that may prove to be.

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