IBM, Epic join forces to vie for Pentagon EHR contract

IBM and Verona, Wisconsin-based Epic have joined forces to compete for the Department of Defense (DoD) Healthcare Management Systems Modernization (DHMSM) contract, which will replace and modernize the agency's electronic health record system.

DoD has yet to issue a request for proposal (RFP) for the project, which could amount to $11 billion, although it did release a draft RFP in January indicating that it intended to rely on off the shelf technology and industry standards. Other potential companies bidding for the contract could include Accenture, Northrop Grumman and Hewlett-Packard, according to a Bloomberg report.

The collaboration will be led by IBM Chief Medical Information Officer Keith Salzman, according to an IBM announcement. Andy Maner, a managing partner with IBM US Federal, called the collaboration "a natural extension" of an existing global partnership between the two entities. "This is going to require bringing a physician's mindset, proven past performance and a commitment to innovation," Maner said.

DoD in May awarded Leidos a sole source bridge contract to support its current EHR system for the next few months.

The Department of Veterans Affairs already indicated that it also plans to compete for the DoD's EHR contract by upgrading its established VistA EHR system to be equal to the commercial software that DoD has expressed interest in. It is unknown whether or not the VA will still be interested in this contract in light of its current priority to reduce wait times for veterans.

IBM's announcement does not address concerns about the lack of interoperability between the DoD and VA EHR systems. The two agencies had been working on a joint EHR for years, but abandoned the project in 2013. The U.S. House of Representatives last month announced that it will withhold 75 percent of the VA's IT funding to upgrade its system until the two agencies address their progress in data sharing. It is expected that the House will do the same to DoD's budget.  

Much of the blame for the lack of collaboration has been placed on DoD's unwillingness to adopt the VA's established system.

To learn more:
- here's the announcement
- read the Bloomberg article