VA makes case for $782 million in EHR funding to skeptical Congressional panel

Newswire: Nov. 15, 2017

Dateline: Washington

The Department of Veterans Affairs says it needs nearly $800 million to begin an overhaul of its electronic health records system with Cerner’s Millennium EHR, though some members of Congress expressed skepticism that the VA needed the money so urgently or would make efficient use of it.

David Shulkin, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, told a House of Representatives subcommittee that if the VA does not get $782 million reappropriated by the end of the year, its contract with Cerner will cost more, and a decade-long implementation will be behind schedule.

Lawmakers have been frustrated with the VA’s transition to an EHR system compatible with the one the Department of Defense uses for active-duty patients. President Obama ordered the VA and Defense Department to create such a system in 2009; four years and $1 billion later, that plan was abandoned.

Last week, the House Veterans Affairs Committee introduced legislation to hold the VA accountable for its change to Millennium EHR; regular reports to Congress would be required, as well as all the planning and implementation documents for the project.

Shulkin promised that if the Cerner money was approved “We’ll stick at this. It’s going to be hard, and there will be stumbles, but this is something we have to get done for the country.”

The alternative is to continue to maintain the VA’s in-house system, which the Government Accountability Office says would cost about $19 billion over the next 10 years.

The interoperability of VA and Defense EHR is seen as a necessity because when service members transition from active duty to retirement, they are unable to carry their DOD medical records with them.

Read the full story here.