DOD EHR modernization contract announcement expected soon

Within days, the Pentagon is expected to announce its decision as to who will receive the Department of Defense's EHR modernization contract, worth approximately $11 billion, according to The Washington Post.

The DOD started soliciting bids for the Healthcare Management System Modernization contract last summer. Three major EHR vendors have submitted bids for the contract: Epic, Cerner and Allscripts.

Epic's bid team is joined by Impact Advisors and IBM. Cerner's team consists of Leidos, Accenture and Henry Schein. Allscripts' team includes CSC, Hewlett-Packard and Elsevier.

The contract seeks to replace VistA, the current VA system, a free open-source, Internet-based system. VistA submitted a bid earlier this year, but was rejected by the DOD, according to the report.

The agencies are searching for an up-to-date upgrade. "The commercial EHR products have really matured since we first started on our modernization journey," Col. Nicole Kerkenbush, executive member of the Healthcare Management Systems Office at Defense, told The Washington Post. "We were so far behind that by the time we invested money, people and time to develop and deploy our solution, we would find ourselves behind industry again."

However, some healthcare IT professionals remain wary of the proposed solutions, voicing concerns that are familiar in the rest of the health IT industry, including worries over clunky, proprietary systems that are difficult to interoperate, and upgrades and software fixes can only be done by the manufacturer. The Pentagon's main goal is to have a records system that seamlessly works with the Veterans Health Administration, which appears to be unattainable given the aforementioned concerns.

In an opinion piece in the Fayetteville Observer, Thomas Verbeck, a retired Air Force brigadier general who has spent 40 years in IT leadership experience, wrote the DOD's modernization project is destined to fail.

"That's because most of today's EHR systems, including the bidder finalists, are designed only to work within their own system. That allows them to charge physicians and hospitals outside their system for access to your data," he wrote. "DOD can demand a system that seamlessly connects health data with civilian hospitals — or the VA — but it has failed to do so."

More articles on health IT:

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How to create a culture of innovation: 6 lessons from Edward Marx
'Think, build and run': 4 IT leaders discuss the future of the industry

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