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Health IT

No protest expected on Coast Guard's heath records move

Electronic health record system vendor Epic won't protest a plan by the Coast Guard to adopt a Department of Defense system based on rival Cerner, an Epic source told FCW.

The Coast Guard is making the move after a botched effort to implement Epic software cost the agency about $60 million and left them without an electronic records system.

The Coast Guard acquired Epic software in 2010 and tapped integrator Leidos to handle the implementation. But after multiple failures, the effort was abandoned and the Coast Guard had to revert to keeping health records on paper.

The seven-year acquisition and implementation effort cost $59.9 million and, according to a January Government Accountability Office report, "no equipment or software could be reused for future efforts."

Epic laid some of the blame on Leidos in a fact sheet published last May, noting that the system's storage area network was first corrupted and then accidentally wiped during the implementation process.

On April 9, the Defense Healthcare Management Systems program office announced that the Coast Guard would be joining MHS Genesis, the $4.3 billion Cerner-based electronic health records system being deployed by the Department of Defense. Leidos is the lead contractor and integrator on the effort.

The news was accompanied by a notice to industry requesting comment on a planned modification to the DOD health records contract to incorporate the Coast Guard and to allow for changes to support the planned shift of the Department of Veterans Affairs to a Cerner system.

The contract modification and an estimate of additional costs will be spelled out in a "justification and approval" document set to be released in about three weeks, according to a DOD spokesperson. The comment period is designed in part for anyone who feels slighted by the deal to register a protest.

Similarly, Epic didn't protest the VA's move to acquire Cerner software on a sole source basis.

"We've never challenged anything," company founder and president Judy Faulkner told Politico in March. "We don’t do that. We feel it's the customer’s right to pick whatever they want."

Between VA and DOD, there may be as much as $15 billion in contract spending on Cerner-based systems by the U.S. government over the next decade.

The VA deal, however, remains on hold after the departure of former agency head David Shulkin. Congress has appropriated money in the 2018 omnibus to fund the launch of the contract, and that money is good for three years. Senate aides have told FCW that they plan to ask Adm. Ronny Jackson, the White House physician selected to lead the VA by President Trump, about his support for a commercial electronic health records system.

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, New York Press, Architect Magazine and other publications.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.

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