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By Nick Wakeman

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Nick Wakeman

VA filing sheds light on huge EHR plan

The Department of Veterans Affairs offered a deeper glimpse into is strategy around its new electronic health records system when it released a sources sought notice recently.

That document describes how the agency is negotiating with Cerner for a commercial EHR software package, which we have previously reported.

Cerner is partnered with Leidos to deliver an EHR system to the Defense Department and the VA wants the two systems to work together, which is why VA is working on an exclusive deal with Cerner. The DOD contract is worth $4.5 billion but the VA work could be much, much larger.

In the request for information, the VA describes that it will rely on Cerner for software licenses, product integration, configuration management, testing, deployment planning, hosting, change management, training, sustainment and other services.

But the VA also anticipates using other contractors for network and site infrastructure upgrades, communications, independent validation and verification, modification and maintenance of VistA legacy systems and other technical and management activities.

The RFI describes the scope of the project: 1,600 care sites, 300,000 employees and 9 million veterans enrolled in the VA health care system.

The RFI is asking for information about experience managing a project of that scale as well as experience with performance and value management, administrative, technical and clinical expertise, and subject matter experts who can support the effort.

Remarkably, the VA posted the RFI on July 27 and expected responses today (Aug. 4).

Whether you were able to respond or not, I see two pools of possible opportunities for contractors.

One is the traditional route that VA describes in the RFI. The agency also said the opportunity would be open to contractors beyond the pool of its T4NG contract.

The second pool of opportunity is in supporting Cerner. While they are a large software company, it isn’t hard to imagine that they would need support for things such as hosting, deployment planning, change management and other services.

Cerner leadership said as much in their second quarter earnings call July 27, where interim CEO Cliff Illig said the company is in the process of building its team and picking partners.

"We look forward to sharing more information once the there is a contract, which we believe will happen by the end of the year," Illig said.

I would expect that Leidos would have the inside track on work with Cerner and the VA directly given the companies' work together at DOD.

In Leidos' own second quarter earnings call Thursday, CEO Roger Krone gave every indication that the company is interested in the VA work in light of the DOD project.

“Clearly, Leidos believes we can add a lot of value to the VA program, and we are poised and prepared to assist VA in any possible way we can,” he said.

But I wouldn’t see it as a forgone conclusion that all the work will go to Leidos. Work at the scale the VA is looking for will surely draw a lot of interest.

I also think that the VA will likely want plenty of competition for support services since it picked Cerner without competition.

But look for steps to be taken to make sure the entire process is expedited.

Their justification for going with Cerner was that the need was critical and they couldn’t go through a lengthy procurement process.

Once the deal with Cerner is finalized and in place, look for VA to move quickly on the related support contracts.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Aug 04, 2017 at 9:35 AM

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