VA, HHS bring on agencies to manage comms work

WASHINGTON: The federal departments of Health and Human Services and Veterans Affairs have signed firms to manage communications initiatives.

WASHINGTON: The federal departments of Health and Human Services and Veterans Affairs have signed firms to manage communications initiatives.

HHS has hired Morgan Business Consulting to provide communications support and to develop an effective provider and stakeholder education and information effort for its privacy and security initiatives, said Peter Ashkenaz, a media specialist at the department.

The contract has a potential budget of $856,000 over a three-year period if all options are renewed, according to an award notice.

Mark Danis, a principal at the consulting firm, confirmed the contract but deferred other questions to HHS.

HHS' Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology was in the news this month after one of its staff members testified in front of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology about the benefits of its meaningful use program. A 2009 federal law states that healthcare providers that demonstrate meaningful use of certified electronic health record systems can qualify for Medicaid and Medicare incentive payments. Several Republican lawmakers have questioned the value of the program.

Meanwhile, the VA has hired firms for two of its units. DC-based Atlas Research won a $997,843 contract to support the Veterans Health Administration communications office by conducting evidence-based strategic communications work, according to an awards notice.

The firm will provide an array of strategic communications products and services, such as the development of internal tools to improve collaboration among the more than 150 public affairs officers at VA medical facilities across the country. It is also helping with outreach for the Veterans Health Administration strategic plan.    

“The office is working on creating a stronger, more cohesive communications community that collaborates in providing information to veterans, their family members, and caregivers, as well as employees, public officials, and other important stakeholders,” said Wendy Opsahl, communications director at Atlas Research.

A separate contract for work with the Veterans Health Administration's office of health information was awarded to Booz Allen Hamilton. The $471,000 contract requires the firm to continue a previous contract in which it provided strategic outreach and communications support, according to an award notice.

There is also a material development component to the contract, according to the notice. A representative from the consulting firm confirmed the deal but did not comment further.

The Office of Veterans Business Development hired The District Communications Group in October to raise awareness about its policies and programs, and HHS' Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services tapped Weber Shandwick last month to promote federally run state insurance exchanges.

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