IBM-Epic Defense health record bid: 'We are rooted to do it at scale'

By Marla Durben Hirsch

Epic and IBM representatives believe that interoperability, a broad reach and "togetherness" will be vital elements to their effort to build the Department of Defense's electronic health record systems, should DoD award the contract--estimated to be worth $11 billion--to their team. For instance, Leslie Karls, U.S. federal and global services executive for Epic, says that her company's "community library" of customers sharing best practices and clinical know-how would be an excellent resource to the DoD, should the agency award the contract to their partnership.

In the third of a three-part series, Karls and Andy Maner, managing partner for IBM Federal, share insights about their bid for the Defense Healthcare Management Systems Modernization (DHMSM) contract with FierceEMR.

FierceEMR:  What makes your bid unique, worthy of the DoD contract?

Karls (pictured right): Our bid is unique because the government is a unique customer. We have the only solution at this size and scale. We even have a larger customer--Kaiser. We are integrated at the data level, and interoperable, not cobbled together. It's a truly integrated platform. The government wants a solution that leads them to the future and not box them in.

Maner: Our team has been crafted over years. We are rooted to do it at scale. We've done this before. We don't bid on everything. But we do bid where we can bring profound change. This is a once in a generation opportunity.

FierceEMR: What does each partner bring to the table?

Maner: We fill out the entirety of what's needed. For DoD mission engineering, we have Lockheed [Martin] and others. We have [Military Health System] DoD legacy support that know how to drive return on investment and be on budget. We have specific EHR expertise in implementing Epic, small business participation and an advisory group of 13 organizations that have already implemented Epic and can mentor others. They are extraordinarily thoughtful and committed to DoD and deeply care about this community.  We have dental. We even have individuals, such as a patient advocate who is a disabled veteran.  

FierceEMR: How would your team improve data sharing with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs' EHR system?

Karls: We have an interoperability platform called "Care Everywhere" that's one of the largest in the nation. The organizations are connected to each other and to Healtheway [the VA's national health information network]. There are more Epic organizations connected to Healtheway than any other vendor. We suggest to improve it with an opt-out policy for the VA, not an opt-in one. Epic customers are doing this already, but we need to increase the numbers and make it easy for patients by providing education. We also want to make sure that policy supports opting out so that once a patient consents to Care Everywhere, that should allow record exchange going forward.

FierceEMR: Would this contract have any broader implications for health IT?  

Maner (pictured left): It's massive. This customer is on the forefront of EHRs. This takes them on a journey for years to come. There will be so much data. The DoD wants improved care with less cost and better outcomes. This goes beyond DoD. A lot of these people are already receiving a lot of their care outside DoD. This brings it all together.

Karls: The community library will give DoD 35 years of information [and DoD will be able to add to it].

FierceEMR: What do you envision in the future of health IT?

Karls: [We'll be able to] take into account genetics, behavior, and take care of patients proactively, not reactively.

Maner: EHRs are the gateway to deeper uses, a mobile environment, low con, like on a ship. It includes social media data. We can see how much more the patient and family are involved in their own care. It's less IT and more social evolution or revolution and DoD is a perfect example of that.

But we're pretty rooted in EHR. That's what we are at our core--a successful implementation. We're trying to get ready for Day 1. If we're chosen we'll be ready to go.

Editor's Note: This interview has been condensed for clarity and content. 

IBM-Epic Defense health record bid: 'We are rooted to do it at scale'