A U.S. Airman files patient records at the USAF Hospital Langley flight medicine clinic at Langley Air Force Base, Va., Dec. 16, 2013.

A U.S. Airman files patient records at the USAF Hospital Langley flight medicine clinic at Langley Air Force Base, Va., Dec. 16, 2013. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jason J. Brown

Possible $11 Billion Contract At Stake for the Pentagon's Digital Health Records

The multi-billion dollar deal to overhaul the Pentagon’s electronic health records system will be one of the most significant government contracts awarded in 2015. By Frank Konkel

It’s no secret the multibillion deal to overhaul the Defense Department’s electronic health records system will be one of the most significant government contracts awarded in 2015.

In the months leading up to the October 2014 bid deadline, DOD officials testified the contract could be worth as much as $11 billion through 2023. And after more than a year of procurement preparation by DOD, four powerhouse vendor teams submitted bids to build the Pentagon’s next-generation EHR system.

The bidding teams are:

  • Computer Sciences Corp., partnered with HP and EHR developer Allscripts;
  • Leidos and Accenture Federal;
  • PricewaterhouseCoopers with General Dynamics Information Technology, DSS Inc. and Medsphere; and
  • IBM and Epic Systems.

DOD is expected to award one of those teams – consisting of commercial vendors coupled with EHR developers – with the contract in June 2015.

While it’s too early to know whether there’s a frontrunner, IBM and Epic have arguably been the most proactive team. They were the first to announce their partnership in June 2014. Around the same time, IBM began hiring high-profile personnel to lead its health care efforts, including Dr. Keith Salzman, who spent 20 years with DOD’s military health system.

On Wednesday, IBM and Epic raised the bar in their bidding strategy, announcing the formation of an advisory group of leading experts in large, successful EHR integrations to advise the companies on how to manage the overhaul -- if they should win the contract, of course.

The advisory group’s creation was included as part of IBM and Epic’s bid package, according to Andy Maner, managing partner for IBM’s federal practice.

In a press briefing at IBM’s Washington, D.C., offices, Maner emphasized the importance of soliciting advice and insight from the group. Members of the advisory board include health care organizations, such as the American Medical Informatics Association, Duke University Health System and School of Medicine, Mercy Health, Sentara Healthcare and the Yale-New Haven Hospital.

The board will advise on more than tech hurdles.

The advisory board also includes veterans who’ve dealt firsthand with challenging circumstances under DOD’s current system, which serves 10 million beneficiaries.

The lack of interoperability, particularly with off-network health care providers and the Department of Veterans Affairs’ own health records system, can put soldiers and transitioning veterans through unnecessary grief.

“I’m not trashing the current system, but you’re constantly getting referred out,” said retired Maj. William Lyles, who was wounded by an improved explosive device while serving as an Army Green Beret. “I want to add the patient’s perspective to this group.”

However, Epic, one of the largest players in the broader EHR market, has not been immune from criticism its own systems don’t interconnect well with competing systems.

A front-page New York Times story last fall reported the company had been criticized in some circles “by those who say its empire has been built with towering walls, deliberately built not to share patient information with competing systems.”

The IBM-Epic advisory board has already shared input and will continue to do so should the team capture the award.

As the due date on the contract award nears, Nextgov plans to check in with all the bidders on the contract.