Health IT

DOD, at last, invites bids for electronic health records system

The Defense Department’s long slog toward modernized electronic health records has taken a significant turn with the release of a request for proposals for the project, which could be worth as much as $11 billion.

The DOD Healthcare Management System Modernization (DHMSM) system will replace the current Armed Forces Health Longitudinal Technology Application (AHLTA) system at the 56 hospitals and 365 clinics within DOD's Military Health System. The release of the RFP follows a string of draft RFPs and industry days for the project, and comes a year and a half after DOD and the Veterans Affairs Department abandoned plans to build a joint health records system.

DHMSM, expected to be in operation by 2017, will track the medical and dental care on about 9.8 million active-duty personnel and dependents, and is to be designed to be interoperable with VA’s records system. Proposals are due on Oct. 9.

DOD and VA had tried for years, without success, to build a joint system, called iEHR, to handle the records of both active-duty personnel and veterans, giving them a single system to follow them through their service and into civilian life. But in February 2013, with costs approaching $30 billion, the departments decided to take separate paths—DOD looking to commercial providers and VA modernizing its VistA system (formally, the Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture).

Despite questions raised by the Government Accountability Office about the economic feasibility of separate systems, the departments have forged ahead.

In July, for instance, VA awarded ASM Research a three-year, $162 million contract for upgrades to VistA’s clinical applications, which covers part of the project.

The Pentagon has said it is expecting four to six bids on DHMSM. Several teams, featuring established IT and integrator companies joining with EHR specialists, have already announced their intentions to bid on the project, including:

  • IBM and EHR company Epic.  
  • Computer Sciences Corp., Hewlett Packard and EHR developer Allscripts.
  • Leidos, Accenture Federal Services and health information services company Cerner.
And, although a joint DOD/VA system was deemed unworkable, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki told a congressional hearing in March that VA would enter its upgraded VistA into the competition. Shinseki said that since VA had released the code to its open-source MUMPS programming language to commercial developers, there could be little difference between VA and commercial systems, NextGov reported at the time.

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.

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