U.S. Coast Guard Terminates EHR Contract with Epic Systems

Late last week, Becker’s Hospital Review, Politico and Healthcare IT News reported that the US Coast Guard (USGC) has terminated its $14 million contract with Epic Systems.  Now there is speculation in the industry for several different reasons that the USGC has handed down this decision, but Dave French, the Coast Guard’s chief of media relations explained to Healthcare IT News that it was due to irregularities in the implementation of the EHR.  Currently, “mum’s the word” on what these irregularities might be until the official review is finished.

According to Politico, the implementation was so disastrous that the USGC had to revert back to their previous system; which was paper in order to continue patient care.  Becker’s reported that Epic was unable to deploy the EHR to any of the planned pilot locations; which was going to be three sites in the Northwestern United States, Seattle area in Washington State.  I reported on the Department of Defense (DOD) – Defense Healthcare Management Systems Modernization’s (DHMSM) pilot site location on the Diligent Fruit in August of 2014: “Going once, going twice….” DoD Taking Final EHR Replacement Bids“.  While no patients were harmed in this failure, there were serious concerns of the projects viability and ability to stay in budget and delivered in time.

The USCG awarded $34 Million in two contracts back in December of 2012 for the creation of the project “Integrated Health Information System (iHiS); $14 million to Epic Systems for their EHR software and $17 million to Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) for implementation and support of the EHR.  In order for SAIC to be a knowledge leader in an Epic implementation, they purchased two, well versed, Epic consultant firms, Vitalize and maxIT, in the summer of 2012.  The acquisition of both firms was at a cost of $500 million; SAIC merge these two firms and rebranded it’s entire company under the name ‘Leidos’.

The idea was part of a larger effort by the DOD to replace the Composite Health Care System (CHCS) medical informatics system created by SAIC.  The DOD awarded SAIC the $1.02 billion contract to develop an electronic health informatics’ system in 1998 that would serve the military health centers across the world.  This was the predecessor to the DHMSM legislation that authorized $4.3 billion to replace the aging CHSC.  This is not to be confused by the informatics’ system that has been in the news concerning the Veterans Association (VA) hospitals named VistA; which is currently looking to be replaced but not necessarily by the DOD’s DHMSM program selection of Cerner.

Epic was given a chance before any other EHR to show it could successfully perform an install of their software product with the USCG’s then current paper system. Speculation points to the desire to keep the cost of the install below budget, but Epic is top most expensive EHR to install. Simply put; Cerner was able to submit a response to the DOD’s ‘Request for Information’ (RFI) to the DHMSM project.  Cerner showed they could do the implementation with their EHR quicker/cheaper than Epic Systems.  The botch Epic install in the Northwest only proved Cerner’s point to be even more true.  ~ RCM