Bethesda-based Lockheed Martin Corp. won a contract worth up to $48 million from the Pentagon to develop software to link computer systems that contain military-patient records, medical-supply orders, blood-supply information and patient-evacuation and transfer data.

The software will eventually allow doctors and nurses to access updated patient records from a central database, whether they are working near the battlefield or at a U.S. military hospital. The system would transmit patient histories and descriptions of previous appointments or treatments but will not send images such as X-rays, said Edward Humphrey, the Lockheed program manager overseeing the contract.

The system is to combine patient records from all branches of the military, including active reserves, for the first time. That consolidation is a key prerequisite for improving the effectiveness of medical surveillance, in which computer programs and analysts scan patient records for common symptoms to detect disease outbreaks or exposure to chemical or biological weapons.

Medical and military personnel would be able to access the network through computers or handheld devices. Pentagon employees can already go online to order and track medical supplies, but that system would be connected to frequently updated information about patients' movements between clinics or hospitals and specific ailments.

The combined system would give commanders and planners at the Pentagon a better picture of overall troop health by producing more accurate data more quickly, Humphrey said.

The base value of the contract is $10.25 million for one year and it can be extended for up to five more years. Employees of Lockheed Martin's information technology division and subcontractors will design the software in Chantilly and the contract would be managed from an office in Falls Church, Humphrey said.