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PCEHR National Infrastructure Partner: Is this the biggest ICT tender we will see this year?

by Paris Cowan •
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The Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA) has released what Intermediumforecasts will be the largest ICT tender to come out of Canberra this financial year.

DoHA has approached the market to find a National Infrastructure Partner to design and build the system infrastructure for the $466.7 million Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record (PCEHR).

The PCEHR was the largest single ICT project funded in the 2010-11 Federal Budget, and the National Infrastructure Partnership represents the major ICT component of its development.  The supporting framework for the PCEHR was one of the last pieces of legislation passed by Parliament before the last election. 

Whoever finds themselves selected for the Infrastructure Partnership will have to work to a tight deadline alongside DoHA and the National E-Health Transition Authority (NEHTA), to get the system up and running by its July 2012 due date.

So far it seems that the PCEHR project has escaped the budget axe which has been wielded to find $2.8 billion from the Federal Budget for the flood relief effort.

This means that the project is unlikely to go the same way as one of the last Federal ICT project on this scale, the Howard Government’s 2007 Access Card scheme. The Access Card never attained enabling legislation and was axed after considerable costs were incurred both by aspirant ICT suppliers in compiling their large and complex bid response to the Systems Integrator request for tender (RFT), and by the Office of Access Card within the Department of Human Services, which was responsible for the proposed scheme and associated procurement processes.

However recent negotiations with members of the Greens and key independents mean that there is still $150 million that will have to be found in the next Budget if the Gillard government is to meet its flood relief target.

The successful tenderer or tenderers for the National Infrastructure Partnership will supply system integration services, including the design, build and implementation of the PCEHR infrastructure, and all associated services.

They will also be expected to make provisions for a series of National Infrastructure Solution Bundles, including:

  • PCEHR operations centre;
  • Call centre;
  • Consumer portal;
  • Provider portal;
  • Core PCEHR system infrastructure;
  • Report service; and
  • Template service.

When July 2012 comes around, the PCEHR will be expected to provide users with a secure online portal with which they can view a summary of their health history, and an indexed summary of specific healthcare events.

Tender documents reveal that DoHA is ideally seeking to engage a consortium of suppliers led by a single entity (a Prime Contractor) who will subcontract components of the contract out to other suppliers, or a group of cooperating entities. 

Entering into a contract with Prime Contractor decreases the level of risk faced by the Department, by reducing the potential for any single supplier to underperform and by fostering cooperation amongst suppliers, the documents explain.

DoHA has elected to follow a two-stage tender process, both of which will be covered within the single RFT. The first stage will function as an Expression of Interest (EOI) round, which will be used by the Department to assess what services the market offers and which are applicable to the PCEHR project. The second round will be a price-based contest where shortlisted tenderers from the initial stage will be expected to offer their Best and Final Offer (BAFO) for the contract value.

BAFO round competitions are re-emerging as a popular option for government agencies seeking to apply downward pressure on prices for ICT services and equipment, with the Australian Government Chief Information Office (AGIMO) submitting members of the Whole-of-Government Desktop Hardware Panel (WGDP) to quarterly BAFO rounds in order to select successful suppliers.

DoHA has also released an RFT seeking a National Change and Adoption Partner for the PCEHR roll-out, which is the third of four major approaches to market that Federal health agency will undertake as part of this project.

The National Change and Adoption Partner will be responsible for the development of the PCEHR communications strategy which will encourage the uptake of the system amongst consumers and clinicians.

Tenders opened for the Benefits and Evaluation Partner on 17 December 2010, and submissions are due by 18 February 2011.

The fourth major component of the project will involve contracting eHealth sites for the deployment of the PCEHR.

Submissions to the National Infrastructure Partnership RFT close on 22 March 2011 and the shortlisted tenderers will be decided on 12 April. Stage two will close on 10 May and contracts are due to be signed by 30 June 2011.


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