Healthy opportunity

BioSense project can bring dollars and prestige to winning contractors

It's halfway through the influenza season, and
BioSense is on alert. Although the federal public
health monitoring program is showing only
mild flu activity across the United States this
winter, BioSense is getting more attention as it
prepares for a new contract.

BioSense collects real-time data from
hospitals and health providers nationwide
to scan for early indications of disease outbreaks.
The system feeds the analysis back
to health care providers for situational
awareness of outbreaks, emerging new illnesses
and bioterrorism events.

The Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention, which have run BioSense since
2004, are expected to award a $100 million
contract to integrate BioSense's components
into a more cohesive system,
according to Input Inc. CDC is also signing
up more hospitals and health care systems.

More than a dozen systems integrators
and other federal contractors are preparing
to bid on the work even though the
award might be delayed until this summer.
Some of the companies are unsure
whether the project will proceed as
planned and point to personnel turnover at
CDC as one reason for doubt. "We are not
sure this is a real opportunity," said an
executive at a major systems integrator.

Michelle Heath, formerly the procurement
contact at CDC for BioSense, is no
longer in that position, according to
Input, a research firm in Herndon, Va. The
project's status is on hold although Input still
forecasts a request for proposals in April.
But most vendors are optimistic. As a project
with high visibility and possibly long-term
significance for electronic health care data
handling, BioSense is hard to resist.

BioSense is one of the largest federal
programs for biosurveillance, a field that has
benefited from growing public awareness since
the still-unsolved anthrax mailings shortly
after the terrorist attacks of 2001.

Because BioSense is a national program that
uses new technologies to discover emerging
trends in public health, it is likely to lead to
other health information technology opportunities,
said Sanjay Patel, president of WebFirst
Inc., of Rockville, Md., a Web applications
development company.

"Anything within biodefense is a high-profile
program," said Dennis Dietrich, of
Digicon Corp., a Herndon, Va., services
provider looking to be a subcontractor on

The final RFP has not been issued, but several
large contractors have expressed interest.
"We have strong capabilities that align with
CDC's health IT mission," said Mark Meudt, a
spokesman at General Dynamics
Information Technology.

Industry sources say Lockheed
Martin Corp., Northrop Grumman
Corp. and Science Applications
International Corp. also are interested.

When BioSense began, it collected
data only from Defense Department
and Veterans Affairs Department facilities.
Its field expanded quickly though,
and as of November 2007, BioSense
had 523 facilities transmitting realtime
data for 46 major metropolitan
areas and 37 states, according to a
statement from CDC.

In addition to that information,
BioSense also receives daily data from
466 DOD and 863 VA clinics and
emergency departments and has commitments
for future links with additional
hospitals, according to an Input

"In total, CDC has commitments
from health care and existing systems
representing more than 1,190 hospitals
willing to transmit data to BioSense,"
Input analysts wrote. The agency's goals were to hook up 1,450 hospitals by the
end of 2007 and 2,500 by the end of 2008.
CDC issued a draft RFP in August saying it
would seek IT services and tools to improve
BioSense performance, increase collaboration,
identify duplicative activities and gaps,
eliminate redundancies, and reduce costs
across the enterprise architecture.

"The contractor shall increase operational
efficiencies and optimize business processes
while providing flexible access to information
across platforms," the draft RFP states. The
BioSense architecture provides standard protocols
that allow CDC to receive information
and offer its analysis to a wide variety of
health care organizations.

Under the proposed contract, the winning
bidder would be responsible for applications
development, data quality, program/project
management and oversight, data security,
data provisioning, data warehousing, recruiting
of data sources, and interacting with the
host service provider, according to the RFP.

Alice Lipowicz ( is a
staff writer at Washington Technology.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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