Contracting

Health records vendor looks to settle lawsuit with VA

Shutterstock image: medical professional interacting with a handheld, tablet computer. 

The Department of Veterans Affairs and its chosen electronic health records vendor Cerner are inching closer to a multibillion-dollar veterans' health care deal. VA Secretary David Shulkin is set to update House appropriators on plans for a new commercial health care system in a hastily arranged Nov. 15 hearing.

A signed contract between VA and Cerner is expected before the end of November, according to court documents reviewed by FCW.

But vendor CliniComp, which is suing the VA over its decision to make a sole-source award to Cerner, is still pushing for a piece of the action. The company is looking to settle its lawsuit with VA in exchange for a no-cost opportunity to demonstrate that its software is interoperable with the VA's legacy Vista system and with the Cerner product being deployed by the Department of Defense. A federal judge dismissed the lawsuit last month, but an appeal is pending.

"As has been the case from the start, all CliniComp has been asking for is a chance to compete. With this step we're asking for a free-to-taxpayers chance to prove our capabilities to the government, putting it in the hands of the non-partisan [General Services Administration] to judge our technology and ultimately give us the opportunity to showcase what we know can be delivered cheaper, faster, and better than the alternative," said CliniComp CEO Chris Haudenschild in an emailed statement.

CliniComp is proposing to test its software against the benchmarks DOD and VA used to certify interoperability with their existing systems to Congress. Those benchmarks cover data sharing between VA's Vista system and a host of legacy systems fielded by DOD. They do not cover the DOD's new MHS Genesis system, which is based around the Cerner electronic health record and which is in the midst of a multiyear rollout at DOD sites worldwide.

The interoperability benchmarks, which were required under legislation, were even last year regarded by many in Congress as insufficient markers of communication and data sharing between the DOD and VA systems.

At a 2016 hearing held in part to discuss the certification of interoperability, Valerie Melvin of the Government Accountability Office testified that "a modernized VA electronic health record system that is fully interoperable with DOD’s system is still years away."

In its settlement offer, CliniComp promised levels of interoperability not included in the 2016 certification and beyond what Shulkin described in his determination and finding document explaining the decision to do a sole-source contract with Cerner, including integration with third-party systems and outside clinical applications.

The VA's press office did not reply to a request for comment.

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, New York Press, Architect Magazine and other publications.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.


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