May 21, 2018

VA signs contract with Cerner to replace its EHR system

Daily Briefing

    Acting Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Robert Wilkie on Thursday announced that the department has signed a contract with Cerner to overhaul its electronic health record (EHR) system.

    According to McClatchy, the announcement comes weeks after a government report flagged concerns with an EHR system Cerner is implementing at the Department of Defense (DOD).

    Background

    Former VA Secretary David Shulkin last year announced that the department would replace its VistA EHR system with a system from Cerner, citing a push to increase interoperability between VA's and DOD's EHR systems. 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.

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

    However, interoperability concerns and allegations that one of President Trump's unofficial advisers had been involved in the deal had delayed VA signing a contract with Cerner, Modern Healthcare reports. In addition, a recent DOD report raised concerns about the EHR system Cerner is implementing at DOD, stating that the system, called MHS Genesis, has significant operational issues that could affect patient safety.

    Wilkie says VA has signed contract with Cerner

    Wilkie on Thursday said VA has signed a contract with Cerner to replace the department's EHR system. "Trump has made very clear to me that he wants this contract to do right by both veterans and taxpayers, and I can say now without a doubt that it does," Wilkie said. He added, "Signing this contract … is an enormous win for our nation's veterans. It puts in place a modern IT system that will support the best possible health care for decades to come. That's exactly what our nation’s heroes deserve."

    Wilkie said VA is "collaborating closely" with DOD sites that have used MHS Genesis "to ensure lessons learned" will be shared with VA. He added, "This is one of the largest IT contracts in the federal government, with a ceiling of $10 billion over 10 years. And with a contract of that size, you can understand why … Shulkin and I took some extra time to do our due diligence and make sure the contract does what [Trump] wanted."

    Comments

    Cerner President Zane Burke in a tweet posted Thursday said the company is "humbled and honored by the responsibility that comes with serving our nation's active duty military personnel, and now, its veterans." The company in a statement said, "We expect this program to be a positive catalyst for interoperability across the public and private health care sectors, and we look forward to moving quickly with organizations across the industry to deliver on the promise of this mission."

    Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), a member of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, said, "I applaud VA for choosing to fully integrate the health records for our nation's heroes through Cerner's EHR system, which will ease the transition to civilian life for our veterans and reduce the unnecessary burdens they face when it comes to receiving care."

    Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), the ranking member on the committee, in a statement said he "will hold VA accountable to make sure that they get this right," adding, "This is the largest [EHR] transformation in the history of American medicine, and VA has no room for error" (Wise/Davis, McClatchy DC/Kansas City Star, 5/18; Arndt, Modern Healthcare, 5/17; Mazmanian, FCW, 5/17; VA release, 5/17).

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