Technology companies are competing for a lucrative contract to handle the Defense Department’s electronic medical records. (AFP/Getty Images)

As the deadline for bids on a coveted Defense Department contract approaches, teams of technology giants — including IBM and Hewlett-Packard — are competing to modernize the military’s electronic health records.

In the next several months, the Defense Department plans to select a team for an up-to-10-year contract, valued at an estimated $11 billion. The awardee would be tasked with revamping the department’s health IT system — covering more than 6 million veterans and 9 million active-duty service members — so that patient records are easily transferable between military treatment locations, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and outside health systems. The Defense Department plans to begin testing and putting the system in place over the 2014-2015 fiscal year.

For bidders, the Oct. 31 deadline is a race to differentiate their proposals from competitors’.

The Defense Healthcare Management System Modernization contract — called “dim-sum” — is among the largest some of these companies have pursued. Teams jointly bidding include IBM and Epic; Leidos, Cerner and Accenture Federal Services; Computer Sciences Corp., Hewlett-Packard and AllScripts; and PriceWaterhouseCoopers, DSS, MedSphere and General Dynamics Information Technology.

Reston-based defense technology contractor Leidos is partnering with Kansas City, Mo.-based health information technology company Cerner and Accenture’s federal consulting subsidiary to sell a record system whose biggest strength is its “open-architecture” — software designed to communicate with existing electronic health record systems, according to the team.

Cerner has set up more than 20 health information exchanges — electronic health record software that bridges disparate health systems — in several states, according to Travis Dalton, Cerner’s vice president and general manager of federal.

“That tool-set will allow us to connect these entities,” though at a much larger scale, Dalton said. Once the electronic health record system is seamlessly connected, the team plans to use an analytics system to gather data on patient treatment, so that the Defense Department can improve how treatment is delivered, added Jim Traficant, managing director of Accenture Federal Services.

Verona, Wis.-based Epic, working in partnership with IBM, sees its existing customer base as its main advantage, according to Leslie Karls, sales executive at Epic. The two companies are proposing Epic’s MyChart patient record system — already in more than 300 hospital systems nationwide — to the Defense Department. IBM plans to develop complementary software for MyChart.

“We [already] do the scheduling, the registration, and, in the commercial sector, we do the billing,” Leslie said.

Though IBM has been aggressively marketing its cognitive computing system Watson to health-care clients — especially “treatment adviser” applications that crunch large volumes of patient data, suggesting treatments statistically likely to succeed — Watson will not figure prominently in the team’s initial proposal, said Andy Maner, IBM’s managing partner of federal business.

“We’re going to bid what the government asks for . . . right now they’re asking for an implemented [system]. We believe down the road [we can provide] technologies that can change the game.”

The PriceWaterhouseCoopers team, which includes Fairfax-based contractor General Dynamics Information Technology, is proposing an electronic health record system that emphasizes “secure access to patient records from any location or device,” Scott McIntyre, PwC’s U.S. public-sector leader, said in a statement.

The proposed system, currently operational in more than 2,000 patient locations, can be easily modified, according to the team, “without the need to be being ‘locked in’ to one technology,” Kelly Barnes, PwC’s United States health industries leader, said in a statement.

The Defense Department has so far opted to solicit commercial software, instead of developing its own, because “it became readily apparent that a very dynamic and vibrant market for healthcare management software systems already existed,” Pentagon spokeswoman Maureen Schumann said in a statement.