State Department Seeks New EHR System

Ryan Black

The agency put out a new Request for Information to gauge vendor interest and capabilities.

The Man and the Expanding Universe Fountain outside of the Department of State Headquarters at the Harry S. Truman Building, Washington, D.C. Photo is in the public domain.

The Coast Guard doesn’t currently have an electronic health records (EHR) system. The Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) is supposed to be signing a deal with Cerner soon, though that may be affected by the dismissal of the agency’s Secretary. The Department of Defense (DOD) is already transferring their systems to Cerner, though that move is not without its early hiccups.

And now the Department of State has issued a Request for Information (RFI) seeking pitches for a new EHR platform of its own.

The RFI, posted on March 30th, demands a HITECH- and HIPAA-compliant platform for its Bureau of Medical Services (MED). According to the document, the Independent Review process will include cost and technology assessments, a risk analysis, an appraisal of how the new system will interact with MED’s existing technology infrastructure, and “new shared services opportunities with other federal agencies implementing [commercial off-the-shelf] EHR systems (i.e. DOD, VA).” The latter is actually the first item on the review list.

Unlike the various documents that outlined VA’s EHR requirements, the word “interoperability” does not appear once in the 4-page RFI. The State Department is asking vendors to deliver no more than 10 pages of text outlining a preliminary project plan. It says it "reserves the right to consider various acquisition strategies in an effort to satisfy the agency’s need in the most effective, economical, and timely manner." VA (somewhat controversially) awarded its deal to Cerner without a formal bidding process, although no final contract has actually been signed.

New EHR implementations can be headache-inducing even when a health system is localized, but MED has over 200 clinicians working in more than 170 different countries, which could add to the complexity. The State Department has over 74,000 employees, according to its most recent fact sheet.

Previous plans had called for the agency and Coast Guard to implement a joint EHR system, but those fell through after numerous missteps and miscommunications.

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