Cerner beats Epic for massive DOD contract

The Defense Department has commissioned medical records firm Cerner, along with its partners Leidos and Accenture, to help overhaul the military's massive health IT system. Other vendors in the running included Cerner’s biggest EHR rival Epic, which had partnered with IBM for the DOD bid. Another team under final consideration was Allscripts and Computer Sciences Corp. During the contract process, DOD officials vetted all teams on their commitment to interoperability and building a system that would give them the greater flexibility in the future. The Pentagon’s decision may have also been influenced by critics of Cerner’s rivals, including that Epic made it difficult for its hospital clients to share across other vendors' platforms.

The contract between the DOD and Cerner is valued at $4.3 billion over 5 years and could set a new national standard for EHR systems. The system demands are extraordinary as it will involve digitizing the health records of more than 9.5 million service men and women as well as their families and retirees. The DOD will maintain full control of its health data in order to have greater control over cyber-security. The goal of the new system is for health histories to be accessible wherever they are treated, whether it's on the front lines, at a DOD health facility, the VA, or a civilian hospital anywhere in the world.

The DOD plans to test the product extensively before launching, so as to ensure better success than the botched launch of the Obamacare health exchange. If testing goes well, the Pentagon expects to launch the 1st phase of the program at stateside facilities in the Pacific Northwest late next year. The road ahead is certainly challenging since full deployment of the system is expected to take up to 7 years.

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