The state’s purchasing director denied a protest Tuesday from a local nonprofit health information exchange that lost out in a competitive bid on a contract for the state’s own HIE.
Tulsa-based MyHealth Access Network filed a protest Jan. 11, calling the Oklahoma Health Care Authority’s bid process “heavily flawed” and “arbitrary” after the nonprofit’s final updated $19.9 million bid lost to a global software company’s price of $49.8 million.
In an 11-page response, Purchasing Director Dan Sivard denied each of MyHealth’s protest grounds as without merit, often characterizing them as the opinions of a losing vendor.
He said all submitted bids were “carefully and equitably reviewed and evaluated,” along with the “passionate protest communication” filed by MyHealth. He noted that MyHealth finished third in OHCA’s final scoring matrix.
“While I respect some of the opinions relayed in your letter I do not find them sufficient to sustain your protest of the contract award,” Sivard wrote, adding that OHCA selected the vendor that could provide the best value to the state.
The purchasing director’s office is part of the state’s Office of Management and Enterprise Services.
A health information exchange — or HIE — serves as a central hub of private medical records that doctors can access for patient history at a moment’s notice, including in emergencies. HIEs also can provide data and statistics regarding public health matters.
Dr. David Kendrick, CEO of MyHealth, offered a written statement Tuesday evening.
“MyHealth and its Board disagree with the analysis and the conclusions reached in OMES’ protest response and we will continue to weigh our options on how best to move forward,” Kendrick said. “In the meantime, we will continue to serve our patients, providers, and the Oklahoma health care community at-large.”
Chief among MyHealth’s complaints were that OHCA didn’t consider its final but unsolicited $19.9 million bid, nearly $30 million less than Orion Health’s $49.8 million bid.
Sivard said OHCA correctly didn’t consider that unsolicited offer because it would have been unfair to other bidders and would have “completely tainted the competitive process.”
OHCA did take into account the bid of $41.7 million that MyHealth submitted in September as its updated “best and final offer,” which OHCA solicited from all bidders, he said.
MyHealth took issue with several aspects of the evaluation criteria, alleging that OHCA evaluators “essentially ignored” the nonprofit’s existing relationships and how far ahead of the software company that was chosen it is in meeting contract requirements.
The nonprofit says it already holds 80% of all medical records generated in Oklahoma after growing for more than a decade, while Orion Health would have to duplicate its efforts by starting from zero.
“These complaints are just the viewpoint and opinion of a vendor and serve as no authority to support the protest,” Sivard wrote. “The score sheet and evaluation is within the purview of the agency and the evaluators.”
The Tulsa World published a story Jan. 20 about the federal government’s concerns regarding OHCA’s selection, as well as the opposition of 13 major entities in Oklahoma.
The OHCA board was scheduled to approve the merging of the Orion contract with an existing contract at its Jan. 20 meeting, but the meeting was canceled that day and moved to Tuesday.
Melissa Richey, OHCA’s chief of communications, said the Jan. 20 board meeting was canceled because of “heightened security surrounding state offices in Oklahoma City” on President Joe Biden’s inauguration day.
The new agenda published on Monday for Tuesday’s rescheduled meeting didn’t list the Orion contract matter.
“Although the protest has no bearing on the action the board is being requested to take, we have removed this item and will reschedule it for a future board meeting after the protest has concluded to allow for more conversation,” Richey said.
The original agenda document noted that Orion contract approvals were still pending from the state OMES and federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
In November, Gov. Kevin Stitt announced that he had launched an effort to find a vendor for a health information exchange the state was designing because “Oklahoma has struggled for a decade to establish statewide interoperability with this data.”
A Jan. 19 opposition letter from 13 major entities contends that the state’s current course “will diminish the existing private sector HIE success, incur significant and unnecessary costs to taxpayers, and negatively impact the state’s HIE infrastructure, which could pose significant health and safety risks to patients.”
The entities backing the joint letter are the Tulsa Regional Chamber; Oklahoma City Chamber; State Chamber of Oklahoma; Hillcrest HealthCare System; Ascension St. John; Integris Health; Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oklahoma; Cherokee Nation Health Services; Choctaw Nation; Chickasaw Nation; Red Rock Behavioral Health; Oklahoma State Medical Association; and Oklahoma Association of Optometric Physicians.
In a Jan. 6 email to state officials, the federal office that helps orchestrate the nation’s health information technology efforts described MyHealth as “an exemplar” in using information for the public good. It expressed concern the state’s decision will “shut down MyHealth’s extraordinary work” to start from scratch a state-operated HIE.