Innovative NIH online purchasing system honored

Purchasing Online Tracking System is one of three winning programs in HHSInnovates competition

The National Institute of Health’s new online system for submitting, approving and tracking purchases electronically is being touted as a generator of an estimated $1 million in savings a year by eliminating double data entry and reducing staffing and resource costs.

The Purchasing Online Tracking System is one of three winners in the Health and Human Services Department’s HHSInnovates competition, as selected by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

“We launched the HHSinnovates awards program this year because we recognize that innovation is the lifeblood of continual improvement in our department’s performance in serving Americans,” Sebelius said in announcing the awardees.

The purchase-tracking system initially was developed in-house by the National Human Genomics Research Institute and was later improved through adoption by other research centers within NIH, and adopted enterprisewide in December 2009.

In 2009, the purchasing system was integrated with NIH’s Business System, allowing for electronic transfer of purchasing data of more than 20,000 orders per month. By eliminating the need for double data entries, with corresponding reductions in staffing levels and resource requriements, NIH is saving approximately $1 million a year from the purchasing system, the department said in a statement posted on its Web site.

In addition, the system offers tools to oversee staff workload and performance, and to track line-item purchases.

The system “completely transformed the procurement process and requisition management into a paperless ordering tracking and management system which enables employees to efficiently request services and supplies and process and track throughout the life cycle of any purchase orders,” the statement said.

The other HHSInnovates winners are the National Collaboration on Childhood Obesity Research, coalition to promote childhood obesisty research; and Text4Baby, a mobile health application allowing young mothers-to-be and mothers to sign up for text alerts on their health needs.

The contest also featured entries from HHS employees, who then voted on three additional winners. The employee-selected winners were:

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s DC Lab Recycling Pilot Program, which provides for cleaning plastic containers to make them suitable for recycling
  • Personal Dust Monitor, created by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, to help miners determine their cumulative exposure to dust and
  • CDC Course on Public Health and Aging, which is a one-day introductory course made available to all CDC employees.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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