Race is On for Defense Health Record – but VA Backs Out of Competition

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Four teams of contractors are vying for the electronic health record system contract – and the $11 billion prize attached.

Four commercial vendors will submit proposals Friday for the Defense Department’s $11 billion electronic health record system contract. But the Department of Veterans Affairs has backed off an idea floated by former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to enter a new version of its own longstanding EHR system into the competition.

Teams bidding on the Pentagon’s EHR system – formally known as the Defense Healthcare Management System Modernization – are:

  • Computer Sciences Corp., partnered with HP and EHR developer Allscripts
  • IBM, aligned with Epic Systems
  • Leidos, joined up with Accenture Federal
  • PricewaterhouseCoopers, with General Dynamics Information Technology, DSS Inc. and MedSphere as partners

Shinseki told lawmakers at a House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing in March that VA had started development of a new version of its decades-old and proven Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture – or VistA – that would be equivalent to commercial software.

 “We want to be in competition for [the] DOD [EHR],” Shinseki said.

But Genevieve Billia, a VA spokeswoman, told Nextgov today: “VA never planned to formally bid in DOD's acquisition. VA supports DOD's need to replace its system and understands DOD is pursuing an open competition.”

She added: “Our prior statements referenced VA's efforts to improve VistA to enable companies offering VistA-based solutions to have a more viable product to enter into competition. Whatever DOD decides, VA is working closely to ensure seamless interoperability of health care data.”

DSS Inc. and Medsphere both offer EHRs based on open source VistA software. The source code used by Epic is based on the underlying Massachusetts General Hospital Utility Multi-Programming System – or MUMPS – code.

When fully deployed in 2017, the DOD health system will serve more than 400 clinicians who treat more than 9.6 million patients in some 400 hospitals and clinics, making it the largest EHR system in the country.

The Epic system, used by Kaiser Permanente, and the VA health care system, which serves about 8.6 million patients, are the two other largest systems in the nation. 

(Image via Amanda Hsu/Shutterstock.com)