- Cerner Corporation is holding back its displeasure at the awarding of a University of Illinois Hospitals EHR contract to its chief rival Epic Systems.
According to NBC Chicago, Cerner claims the Epic EHR contract will end up costing taxpayers more than $100 million dollars despite a bid of $62 million. Despite a higher bid, Epic beat out Cerner to be the health system enterprise EHR providers.
In response to the decision, Cerner has launched a legal effort led by former Chicago Corporation Counsel and current Cerner Chicago attorney Mara Georges, who took to the press to criticize the decision by UI Health officials.
“I smell a rat here,” she told NBC Chicago. “The taxpayers of the State of Illinois are entitled to an explanation, and an explanation has not been forthcoming!”
The head of Cerner’s legal team claims that Cerner’s $60.5-million bid represented the full cost of the EHR implementation opposed to Epic’s bid which would require additional resources needed to complete the actual implementation, ranging from $75 to $100 million according to Georges.
What’s more, Cerner contends that Epic was given the opportunity to demonstrate the capabilities of its EHR system whereas the former was not.
“It certainly seems there was an attempt, a successful attempt, to steer the contract towards Epic,” Georges added.
According to the news outlet, a meeting between Cerner representatives and members of Illinois Procurement Policy Board failed to yield insight into the factors behind UI Health’s ultimate decision. “I guess U of I doesn’t really care if there is a $75 to $100 million additional cost to taxpayers,” stated a board member whose comments were recorded in meeting minutes obtained by NBC Chicago.
Another board member, Bill Black, took a pop shot at university officials specifically.
“The University of Illinois is a world class public university, and I get damn tired of them operating like just the opposite — like they are Harvard,” he said. “Every time the University gets in trouble, it’s because they won’t say what they’re doing!”
Both Epic Systems and the University of Illinois declined to comment. However, Chief Procurement Officer Ben Bagby did make available the Cerner denial letter that stated that Kansas City-based EHR company “simply did not submit a proposal that showed its technical qualifications at the minimum level required.”
Just last month, Epic become the EHR replacement of choice Advocate Health Care, formerly a Cerner and Allscripts shop. There appears to be no love lost between the two top EHR companies.
Having been denied an opportunity to demonstrate the Cerner EHR, the company’s legal team is claiming favoritism.
“For whatever reason, there was an interest in making sure Epic was awarded this contract,” Georges said. “It appears there was favoritism toward Epic, and that procedures were not followed to give everyone involved in the process a fair shake.”
According to a December report in The News-Gazette, Cerner currently manages roughly 70 percent of UI Health’s electronic records, with Epic managing the remainder. The Epic EHR contract win, therefore, represents a coup for the privately-held EHR company.
That report also included details that UI Health was dissatisfied with problems with Cerner products in the past and impressed by Epic’s products in a head-to-head comparison. In that same report, Georges laid the blame at the feet of UI Health officials for failing to follow Cerner’s recommendations to upgrade its systems.
The dispute will come to a head in an upcoming hearing on March 20 called by the Illinois Procurement Board with invitations sent to all parties involved. Until the dispute is settled, the EHR implementation project remains on hold.