HHS has contracted with business and technology consultancy Acumen Solutions to deploy a Salesforce.com app that will manage relationships among the HHS, recipients of stimulus money for the deployment of health information technology, and the health providers that new technology will serve.
The effort is an example of the government's gradual embrace of cloud computing, spurred in part by leadership from federal chief information officer Vivek Kundra. The Obama administration's fiscal 2011 federal budget proposal calls cloud computing a "major part of the strategy to achieve efficient and effective IT," and pushes federal agencies to evaluate cloud computing alongside other deployment methods for new IT projects.
HHS last week awarded $375 million to 32 nonprofit organizations that will set up "regional extension centers" to provide educational and technical assistance to healthcare providers looking to deploy and use electronic health records systems. The new contract will put in place mechanisms to manage the relationships and projects that are part of this effort.
Here, Acumen will be customizing Salesforce.com customer relationship management and project management applications for use by both HHS and the regional extension centers, and will likely integrate Salesforce with legacy systems, perhaps including grants management systems already in place at HHS.
Acumen began working on the effort on January 31, and has an aggressive time schedule for deployment. The first phase will be ready for release within six weeks, according to Acumen managing director Marty Young.
Once up and running, the apps will help HHS track, manage, and interact with the regional extension centers and help the regional extension centers manage interactions with healthcare providers and projects related to selection, deployment, and use of electronic health records systems.
It's unclear exactly how much HHS will spend on the contract, but according to Acumen, it is "one of the largest cloud computing government contracts awarded to date." Acumen has also helped deploy software-as-a-service at 11 other cabinet agencies, including a cloud-based partner contact database for the U.S. Census Bureau.