Now that Cerner’s suite of electronic health records will over the next decade power the Military Health System, the question arises on whether the vendor is up to the mammoth task.

The new EHR system—which is global in scope—will replace up to 50 legacy systems and cover more than 9.5 million Defense Department beneficiaries and the more than 200,000 providers that support them. The initial contract for work is valued at about $4.3 billion, with initial rollout of the system to eight test sites in the Pacific Northwest expected to start in late 2016, and the value of the entire contract could near $9 billion.

Also See: Cerner Surprises in Beating Epic for DoD EHR

There will be a lot of pressure on Cerner to have all the people in place to fill its obligations, says Mike Mytych, a principal and vendor selection specialist at Health Information Consulting in Menomonee Falls, Wis. And, full DoD interoperability with the Department of Veterans Affairs and outside providers to transfer data and images using certified EHRs also will be challenging, as that is the expectation of this giant project, Mytych notes.

But Cerner doesn’t have to shoulder all of the work with partners Leidos, Accenture and Henry Schein doing a lot of heavy lifting on implementations, he says.

As modifications to Cerner systems are made and new products come on board, the vendor’s customers could see real benefits, Mytych adds. He served in a military hospital and believes providers across the industry will benefit from better interoperability with DoD and VA. For instance, a recent article in FCW (Federal Computer Week magazine) highlighted a new interface that VA is testing, called the Enterprise Health Management Platform, or EHMP, designed to exchange data with current DoD record systems as well as the new systems to be built. “It’s important to recognize that not every piece of data is of value between the DoD and VA, but it should be available when the new systems are completed and then up to the providers as to what will be needed and valuable.”

While the public betting was on Epic getting the defense business, the DoD award to Cerner in early July to supply the Military Health System with its CoPathPlus anatomic pathology software may have been a signal that the Leidos vendor team that included Cerner already had won, Mytych says. “Don’t underestimate what Leidos has been able to do to serve the federal government.”

John Moore, managing partner at Chilmark Research, doesn’t see too many troubles ahead for Cerner’s present and prospective customers. “I do not believe they are at any significant risk from a services perspective as Leidos and Accenture are doing the systems implementation work for DoD. Where customers may see some bumps in the road is in the upgrades/updates and new offerings from Cerner. There is the possibility that some of these may take a backseat to DoD needs. This is a small risk, but a risk nonetheless.”

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