Cerner: U of Illinois Hospital's bid to Epic will cost taxpayers $100M

Cerner, which lost out on an EHR contract at Chicago-based University of Illinois Health in late 2017, claims the hospital's contract with Epic will cost taxpayers nearly $100 million in excess costs, according to NBC Chicago.

In September 2017, UI Health's board of trustees voted to move forward in the contracting process for an Epic EHR implementation. The board awarded the Verona, Wis.-based vendor a $62 million, seven-year deal.

Nearly three months later, Cerner filed a protest with Illinois' chief procurement office for higher education over the Epic contract, alleging the bidding process was unfair and tainted by a possible conflict of interest. Cerner claimed its bid was $1.5 million lower than Epic's and included all implementation costs while Epic's didn't.

However, the state rejected the protest in January, ruling Cerner didn't submit a proposal demonstrating its technical qualifications at the minimum required level and noting it awarded Epic the contract through a request for proposals, not a competitive bidding process.

Now Cerner is claiming if UI Health still goes with Epic, the deal will hurt taxpayers. "I smell a rat here," Mara Georges, Chicago's former Corporation Counsel who currently serves as Cerner's Chicago attorney, told NBC Chicago. "The taxpayers of the State of Illinois are entitled to an explanation, and an explanation has not been forthcoming!"

Ms. Georges said the proposals were supposed to consider all costs associated with the overhaul, but Epic's failed to mention other costs associated with implementation,  which could drive total costs as high as $100 million. She said Cener's all-encompassing bid was only $60.5 million, and added that Cerner was never given the opportunity to demonstrate its software's capabilities — but Epic was.

"For whatever reason, there was an interest in making sure Epic was awarded this contract," Ms. Georges told NBC Chicago. "It appears there was favoritism toward Epic, and that procedures were not followed to give everyone involved in the process a fair shake."

Although a UI spokesperson told NBC Chicago the process abided all procurement processes under state law, the Illinois Procurement Policy Board scheduled a session  for March 20 to address the contracting concerns.

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