Federal prisons look to improve health care for aging population

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The Federal Bureau of Prisons is asking contractors for ways to improve its health care data analytics for its population of aging prisoners.

In a request for information (RFI) issued last week, the bureau said it wants to use the analytics not only to improve medical care of older prisoners, but also to more efficiently manage resources and reduce costs.

The goal is to help the bureau — which is part of the Justice Department — fulfill its enterprise health analytics solution and data analytics platform, officials said. The analytics would focus on “population health, delivery of care, operational and planning costs, regulatory compliance, research, and financial management,” according to the RFI.

For several years the BOP has experienced understaffed medical units, which could be remedied in part by the implementation of better data analytics systems, the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General has said.

A report released in March 2016 by the OIG called the staffing and retention of medical professionals a “serious challenge” for the bureau because of competition from the private sector.

According to the inspector general’s office, only 3,215 of the 3,871 positions in BOP’s health services units were filled as of September 2014.

“As the BOP struggles to fill its medical staffing needs, and as medical costs continue to rise, the BOP must collect better information on its priority health services vacancies and find solutions to meet the medical needs of its inmates,” OIG said in the report.

Previous reports by OIG found that prison understaffing has limited aging inmates’ access to medical care, which requires sending many of them to health care professionals outside of the prisons, increasing total medical costs.

Responses to the RFI are due by March 29.

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Bureau of Prisons, data analytics, Federal Bureau of Prisons, health care, Inspector General, Justice Department, Office of the Inspector General