HHS awarded $18.6 million in contracts to design and implement prototype networks for electronic health records. The choice of large corporations for what is a relatively small contract raised red flags with some industry players that the systems adopted by HHS won't be as open as desired.
The companies chosen were: Accenture, New York City; Computer Sciences Corp., El Segundo, Calif.; IBM, White Plains, N.Y.; and Northrop Grumman, Los Angeles.
The four, in conjunction with other IT companies and health systems, are charged with creating separate beta versions of an electronic health information exchange-one that will allow patients and doctors to electronically access critical information stored on patient records. Their systems will be tested in California, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee and West Virginia.
After one year, HHS, its National Health IT Coordinator David Brailer, M.D., and the American Health Information Community will "take the best of the best" ideas from each group to implement into a viable product designed to deliver critical heath information online. The product also would deliver on President Bush's promise to take patient records electronic over the next 10 years.
Scott Wallace, president and chief executive for the National Alliance for Health Information Technology, says the original request for proposals calls for more of a mix between big and small companies-something not noticeably recognizable with the four chosen.
Brailer says that his office and the AHIC want to keep the process as transparent as possible and will listen to the groups not selected through the RFP process.
"It's important that they do that," Wallace says. "In picking such big-name vendors, there is a real risk of the perception that this network is going to be proprietary and they can't have that."
The contracts are the last in a series of RFPs that HHS issued over a year ago. HHS has awarded contracts to create a set of standards for interoperable systems, for a certification process for health IT products and for the development of a group to analyze individual state privacy laws.