June 24, 2017

VA Confirms Decision for Commercial EHR Replacement of VistA

06 June 2017, 06:38 | Clarence Schmidt

Veterans Affairs secretary announces new electronic health record system

VA will adopt a Cerner EHR like DoD

"Removing VistA from the VA system of care is long overdue, and Paralyzed Veterans of America is pleased Secretary Shulkin has exercised his authority to declare it a priority", remarked Associate Executive Director of Medical Services Lana McKenzie, RN, MHA, CCM.

U.S. Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, today applauded the announcement by U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary David Shulkin that the VA will adopt the same Electronic Health Record (EHR) system as the Department of Defense (DOD) for veterans' medical records.

Cerner already runs the Department of Defense's medical records system.

Shulkin said the VA's record system has been in use, with updates, since the 1970s. Shulkin said he decided to make an exception to the rule for full and open competition, signing a "Determination and Findings" form to do so. To date, VA and DoD have not adopted the same EHR system.

"For nearly two decades the departments have undertaken various efforts to advance interoperability between their respective electronic health record systems", the Government Accountability Office reported in October of 2015. It was their work there that Secretary Shulkin said pushed their decision into Cerner's favor.

"I did not see a compelling reason why being in the software development business was good for veterans", said Shulkin.

"VA's adoption of the same EHR system as DOD will ultimately result in all patient data residing in one common system", he said, "and enable seamless care between the departments without the manual and electronic exchange and reconciliation of data between two separate systems".

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Shulkin credited President Donald Trump's leadership with the difference that's allowed the VA to move forward with this decision months into the new administration.

"When DOD went through this acquisition process in 2014 it took far too long", he said.

In his announcement, Skulkin made no reference to the dollar value of the contract with Cerner.

"They indicated a strong interest in helping the Department of Veterans Affairs, which I welcomed", he said.

He promised a system that will not only be interoperable with DOD records but also easily transferable to private-sector hospitals and physicians, as VA officials work to expand outside partnerships.

"You could be the best VA secretary of all time if you just solve this one problem", Rep. Thomas Rooney, R-Fla., told Shulkin during a hearing last month, referring to IT integration with the DOD.

While we have established interoperability between VA and DOD for key aspects of the health record, seamless care is fundamentally constrained by ever-changing information sharing standards, separate chains of command, complex governance, separate implementation schedules that must be coordinated to accommodate those changes from separate program offices that have separate funding appropriations, and a host of related complexities requiring constant lifecycle maintenance.

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