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Interoperable Electronic Medical Records Program Progresses

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 13, 2014 – The Defense Department is getting closer to fielding a system that will provide a seamless medical records system, the program manager for the multibillion-dollar acquisition effort said this week.

Navy Capt. John H. Windom spoke to reporters about the third draft request for proposals his office issued this week for the DOD Healthcare Management System Modernization Program.

“My job is to replace the … existing legacy electronic health record systems supporting the military health care system,” he said.

Interoperability is a key tenet of any change, the captain said, noting that DOD, the Veterans Affairs Department and civilian health care providers must be able to access and update health records. The Office of the National Coordinator and a DOD/VA interagency program office set the protocols and interfaces that all systems will seek to align to.

“For me, if I map to those interfaces, then I inherently become interoperable with the VA,” Windom said.

The captain compared the situation to the Internet’s early years. “All the issues we had with the Internet when it first started revolved around protocols, because people wouldn’t follow a consistent standard,” he said. “Now, the Internet is taken for granted, but if you look 15 to 20 years ago, not everyone could speak to one another.”

The effort goes beyond medical record interoperability between DOD and VA, Windom said, because civilian health care providers shoulder 60 percent of the medical workload for service members and their families, and they, too, follow these protocols.

“That’s one major reason as to why we went with off-the-shelf technology,” the captain said. “That interoperability with commercial health care is imperative.”

This week, Windom’s office released its third draft request for proposals. The office is going through this process to ensure that companies understand the scope of the effort and DOD’s requirements and can give immediate feedback on those products. DOD does not want to release an RFP that is technologically unworkable or too expensive, Windom explained.

“In advance of the final RFP, which the offerors are going to be required to bid to, they understand the government’s requirements and acquisition approach, so it reduces ambiguity,” he said. “It also ensures we are asking for something that is feasible.”

Companies pose questions about the requirements and DOD answers them, Windom said. The government then may modify the RFP, if appropriate, to incorporate what it has learned from the process. “In response to the first draft RFP, we got in excess of 700 questions from industry, and in the latest round, we got in excess of 320 questions,” he said.

As the RFP has become more detailed, the captain said, the number of questions dropped. “We’re gaining clarity,” he added. “We expect more targeted questions. I’d like to say on this next round we’re not going to get any questions, but I know it’s not the case.”

The program is on track, Windom said. The final request for proposals will be released in the fourth quarter of the fiscal year, with the contract award happening in fiscal year 2015. The initial operational capability site will be in the Pacific Northwest, with other regions added in waves, Windom said.

(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @garamoneAFPS)

 

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