June 6, 2017

VA announces plans to replace its long-troubled EHR system

Daily Briefing

    Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary David Shulkin on Monday announced that the department will replace its VistA EHR system with a system from Cerner, which also is working to overhaul the Department of Defense's (DOD) EHR system.

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    VA and DOD currently use separate EHR systems and for years have struggled to make those systems more interoperable. The Government Accountability Office repeatedly has criticized the departments' progress on integrating their EHR systems and in July 2016 projected VA was "years away" from achieving a modernized EHR system that was fully interoperable with DOD's system.

    Shulkin's announcement

    In the announcement, Shulkin said VA will not be adopting exactly the same EHR system as DOD, but that the two systems will be hosted on a similar Cerner platform and will be interoperable. In addition, Shulkin said VA will adopt "significant cybersecurity enhancements" to leverage the "architecture, tools, and processes" already being used by DOD.

    VA selected Cerner under a "Determination and Findings" form, which allowed the department to solicit directly from the vendor instead of allowing companies to bid on the project. Shulkin said, "Our current VistA system is in need of major modernization to keep pace with the improvements in health information technology and cybersecurity, and software development is not a core competency of VA." He added, "It's time to move forward, and as secretary, I was not willing to put this decision off any longer."

    How to assess the decision to switch EHR systems

    According to McClatchy, neither VA nor Cerner announced the contract's value. Shulkin said it should take between three and six months to negotiate pricing and determine a timeline for implementation.

    Comments

    President Trump during a press conference called the decision "one of the biggest wins for our veterans in decades." He said VA is "taking steps to finally solve this situation once and for all." He added, "The records will now be able to follow the veteran as they leave service. Meaning, faster, better and far better quality care."

    Cerner in a statement said it was looking forward to overhauling VA's EHR system, which "will lead to ongoing innovation, improved interoperability, and the creation of a single longitudinal health record that can facilitate the efficient exchange of data among military care facilities and the thousands of civilian health care providers where current and former service members receive health care" (Davis, Healthcare IT News, 6/5; Arndt, Modern Healthcare, 6/5; Wise/Stafford, McClatchy/Sacramento Bee, 6/5; Yen, AP/Sacramento Bee, 6/5; Kesling, Wall Street Journal, 6/5).

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