HHS Wants to Use AI to Buy in Bulk

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The agency wants to use artificial intelligence to find hidden efficiencies in contract data.

The Health and Human Services Department is looking for someone to build an artificial intelligence tool to help the agency buy its goods and services faster and cheaper.

HHS on Friday called on industry to submit proposals to develop the BUYSMARTER Acquisitions system, a tool that would use artificial intelligence to analyze contract data and help procurement officials buy more efficiently. Once built, the system would help HHS identify and manage different categories of contracts, collect new orders and pick the best vendor for each one.

“AI has the potential to extrapolate large amounts of data into meaningful outputs that could significantly save both time and money in procuring goods and services in the federal government,” the agency wrote in the notice. “HHS fully intends on using AI to intelligently manage all functions from the beginning to the end of the total acquisition process.”

As it stands, HHS agencies rely on a variety of legacy systems to manage their contracting process. As a result, the agency’s procurement data lacks standard formats and remains largely siloed within each subcomponent.

Officials aim to use the BUYSMARTER tool to break down those barriers by pulling data from each program and aggregating the information in a central “data mart,” where it could be standardized and analyzed. They specified system must also be able to connect to any third-party e-commerce platforms HHS may adopt in the future.

Officials said they could use the data mart to spot common requests, combine orders and buy in bulk, lowering overall costs.

The tool would also automate a number of steps in the procurement process, such as comparing contract prices, ranking vendors of particular products and compiling summaries of contract decisions. Additionally, the system could help HHS analyze its spending patterns more broadly, monitor contract compliance and track cost savings.

HHS is scheduled to host an industry day on April 2 to discuss details of the initiative, and project proposals must be submitted by April 13.

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