HHS using blockchain to streamline contract procurement


Interest in blockchain technology to solve big problems isn’t limited to the private sector. In December, HHS received authority to operate the first blockchain-based tool in the federal government.

The tool, called HHS Accelerate, relies on blockchain to streamline the process the department uses to procure products and services from private vendors. With the tool, HHS aims to speed up the procurement process and reduce its costs.

Vendors should benefit from fewer administrative tasks, so they can focus on the quality and delivery of the services they provide.

The “authority to operate” term means HHS Accelerate can start testing the tool with live data.

“Our goal is actually to leverage and harness all of the data within HHS, which is about $24.8 billion in spend, about 100,000 contracts, about 1 million pages of unstructured data, and provide that information to the 20,000 members of the acquisition workforce in real time at their fingertips so that they can actually make good business decisions,” Jose Arrieta, associate deputy assistant secretary in HHS’ acquisition division, said during a recorded demo of the tool on Dec. 12. “We believe that without blockchain this would not be possible.”

Arrieta explained that one aspect of the tool will use blockchain as a ledger to record vendors’ interactions with HHS so vendors are able to access a time-stamped record of all financial information, requests-for-information, reference checks and other data they provided in the past so it can be used again.

Another aspect of the tool would enable contracting professionals to access historical information about prices, terms and conditions for a product or service in real time. Collecting, organizing and analyzing that information would normally take an agency four to six months for a large sourcing initiative, Arrieta said.

“We believe that empowering you at the point of purchase will actually save a significant amount of money for the federal government, U.S. taxpayers and in particular Health and Human Services,” he said.

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