VA being sued over awarding EHR contract to Cerner

Electronic health records provider CliniComp is suing the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) over its decision to select Cerner to replace its in-house EHR system without allowing for a competitive bidding process.

VA Secretary David Shulkin, MD, announced in June Cerner would be replacing the Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture (VistA), citing the company’s existing EHR contract with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). Shulkin justified the decision to bypass a bidding war by saying that process may have taken up to 26 months and said the final price tag would be “the best value for taxpayers.”

CliniComp, which provides EHR systems for dozens of VA and DoD facilities, protested the agency’s decision soon after the Cerner deal was announced. The VA dismissed the protest on Aug. 7, leading to CliniComp’s lawsuit. The company argued the urgency of the EHR contract was “predicated on a lack of advance planning,” which isn’t a valid reason to skip rules surrounding competitive bidding for government projects as laid out in the Competition in Contracting Act (CICA).

“Since CliniComp already has an HER system that can meet the VA’s requirements, and Cerner does not, the decision to make Cerner the offeror rather than CliniComp was arbitrary, capricious and an abuse of discretion,” the lawsuit said.

It went on to claim in the time it will take the VA to negotiate its contract with Cerner, the VA “could hold an accelerated full and open competition for the next generation of EHR.” The suit asks for an injunction against the Cerner deal and seeks a court order for the VA to open the bidding process.

CliniComp has successfully blocked VA deals in the past. In 2014, the U.S. Court of Federal Claims—the same court hearing the current complaint—overturned a $4.5 million contract the VA had awarded to Picis for intensive care unit computer systems because of another CliniComp lawsuit.