Health IT

IBM gears up for Pentagon health push

doctor and laptop

IBM named Dr. Keith Salzman, an early pioneer in health IT for the U.S. Army, as its chief medical information officer as part of an overall expansion of its federal health care practice announced April 24. Salzman comes to IBM from defense and civilian IT contractor CACI, where he held a similar post.

The move comes as the Department of Defense is edging closer to publishing a final request for proposals on its planned electronic health record program. The massive, multi-year program, called the Department of Defense Healthcare Management Systems Modernization (DHMSM), was put in motion after an effort to create a joint health record system between DOD and Veterans Affairs was abandoned.

A single contractor will be selected to serve as integrator to direct the project. While IBM didn't comment publicly about its interest in the integrator role on the massive program, the company, along with a who's-who of leading federal IT contractors and medical IT specialists, has attended industry days related to the contract.

The scope of the DHMSM is enormous, covering 9.7 million beneficiaries, six major medical centers, 45 hospitals, more than 750 medical and dental clinics, and more than 300 ships. Dr. Jonathan Woodson, assistant secretary of Defense for health affairs, told Congress in February that the system would be ready in the first quarter of fiscal 2017 and would cost about $11 billion to stand up.

IBM is also adding big data and cognitive computing services for federal health care clients through its Watson Group cloud. These include services for patient interaction, diagnostics and research, and data visualization. Additionally, an analytics service called Advanced Care Insights integrates unstructured data such as doctors' notes, diagnostic tests and other information into electronic medical record systems so it can be queried.

"I'm excited to be joining IBM at this pivotal time in the U.S. federal government's transformation journey in health care," Salzman told FCW in an email. "IBM's leadership in the areas of analytics and cognitive computing will be a valuable resource for government clients as they aim to improve care and drive down healthcare costs."

The Department of Defense is expected to issue a final request for proposals on the DHMSM procurement in May.

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is a staff writer covering Congress, the FCC and other key agencies. Connect with him on Twitter: @thisismaz.

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