Developers must apply first and wait to see if they receive an invitation to the run off. The Defense Department application asks vendors whether their products have “achieved meaningful-use Stage 1 criteria through an Office of National Coordinator defined certification process” and whether at least one hospital has used their EHR to meet the Stage 7 criteria on the Health Information and Management Systems Society's EHR adoption model, among other invitation criteria.
At the demonstration, vendors will have to show how their products contribute to secondary data use, such as, “predictive analytics, research, management of patient safety incidents, and overall support of the organization as a business entity,” according to the application.
Vendors also will have to describe their research and development plans toward achieving Stage 2 criteria, but not whether the system has met those criteria at this point, since only a few have, compared to the number of products tested and certified for use by providers to meet Stage 1 criteria. Plans to buy an EHR for the Military Health System were announced in May by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel after a brief dalliance with the idea of a joint development of a system for use by the DOD and the VA.
The Military Health System operates 59 hospitals and 360 health clinics. A core hospital system still in use by the military, the Composite Health Care System, is a clone of the VA's EHR, the software code for which was obtained for free from the VA. And yet, CHCS initially cost taxpayers $1 billion to build.
At the time Hagel announced his purchase strategy, he left the door open for VistA developers to compete with vendors of “commercial-off-the-shelf” systems, saying “a VistA-based solution will likely be part of one or more competitive offerings that DOD receives.” That door appears to remain open, according to the latest announcement.
The VA's healthcare arm, the Veterans Health Administration, operates 151 hospitals and 827 clinics.
Former VA CIO Roger Baker has called $16 billion “a reasonable estimate” for the cost of replacing VistA, citing published reports that Kaiser Permanente paid $4 billion to install a commercial EHR system from Epic Systems Corp. at 36 locations. By that measure, a commercial system for the Military Health System will command a hefty sum.
Cost was a key factor in the VA's decision to move forward with an open source development initiative to upgrade VistA.
Last month, the New York State Office of Mental Health awarded a $48 million contract to a consortium of developers and systems integrators to install a VistA derivative in its 24-hospitals and 310 clinics.
Follow Joseph Conn on Twitter: @MHJConn