How one small business embraced the health care market and won

A series of decisions laid a foundation that landed a small Atlanta firm on the CDC's $5 billion IT contract

Business Computer Applications Inc., a minority-owned, small disadvantaged business, moved from Chattanooga, Tenn., to Atlanta in 1986, initially to be closer to its client base and to take advantage of the better transportation facilities at Hartsfield Jackson International Airport.

The move was the first of three key management decisions made over a decade ago that have bolstered the private company’s bottom line every year since its founding in 1977 and continue to pay dividends.

The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention was not even on BCA’s radar when the company left for Atlanta, said company co-founder Albert Woodard, who is chairman of the board, president and CEO of BCA.

“We really didn’t know much about the federal sector,” he acknowledged. “What we knew about was basically large health care practices in the region.”

A second move came in the early 1980s when the company, which was founded as a computers and services provider to small and mid-size companies, transitioned into health care technology.

It was a decision that was influenced by a weak national economy, Woodard said.

“We did that because there was a growing demand in health care for our services, and health care wasn’t threatened by economic upturns and downturns,” he said.

BCA’s initial sales target was the top 25 percent of the largest out-patient health care practices in the country, many of them clustered around the Georgia capital because of the CDC’s presence there.

“We had [health care] intellectual property that we owned and we were beginning to develop more intellectual property based on standards that would allow us to resell the products,” Woodard added.

BCA offered a medical practice management system that tracked cash flow and improved efficiency. It also scheduled patient appointments, tracked Medicare and Medicaid billing, and tracked general ledger billing and receivables.

“Today we have an electronic medical records system and our own practice management and accounting practice systems,” Woodard said.

Within two years, BCA had grown into a national provider of health care IT services.

The third good move came when the company began working with the CDC as a TRW subcontractor about 14 years ago; the national health care watchdog agency is now one BCA’s biggest clients, with about 100 employees working at the center.

In fact, BCA recently was one of 30 companies named to the CDC’s new Information Management Services (CIMS) contract, an indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity award worth $5 billion over 10 years.

Of the 71 companies that bid on the CIMS contract, BCA was one of fewer than a half dozen selected for the small-business category, which also included Amdex Corp., Chickasaw Advisory Services and SciMetrika LLC.

But BCA was the only small business to gain a prime contractor position in the CIMS Information Management Services “full and open” business category.

A private company, BCA doesn’t release its earnings. But Woodard said over the past three years the company has averaged $17.5 million in revenue, about $11 million of which comes from the federal sector.

The remainder comes from the company’s commercial products division, which sells its electronic medical records and practice management systems to large health care facilities such as the University of Texas medical school.

Woodard said he believes BCA was among the winners “because we have a clear understanding of public health internationally as well as nationally. We have a clear understanding of the CDC – we understand the CDC better than we understand any other federal agency.”

Looking ahead, Woodard said, “We hope to have reasonable and conservative growth in the range of 15 [percent] to 20 percent a year. We hope that we can do that in [this] market, but we’re in an economy that [requires us] to take a look at changes in regulations as well as changes in the current political environment in the federal government.”

Woodard said he hopes to use the CIMS award to transition from mainly a subcontractor to a large prime contractor, and provide services directly to the CDC.

“I think we’re well positioned to do that based on the experience of some of our senior people that have been working for the CDC for a number of years,” he said.

But he also acknowledged that competition from the likes of IBM, Unisys, Lockheed Martin and other large contractors on the IDIQ contact “will be formidable, no doubt.”

Woodard added that BCA’s expertise should also create opportunities for work with other federal health care programs, such as those in the Health and Human Services and Veterans Affairs departments.

“We hope to leverage our experience at the CDC as well as our experience at HHS and the Department of Defense to become a more significant federal player and federal contractor. However, that being said, we have no current plans to diversify outside of health IT.”

About the Author

David Hubler is the former print managing editor for GCN and senior editor for Washington Technology. He is freelance writer living in Annandale, Va.

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