VA’s contract with Cerner hits a snag after secretary’s comments on interoperability

Newswire: Dec. 13, 2017.

Dateline: Washington.

Cerner’s enormous contract to provide the Department of Veterans Affairs with electronic health records management systems has hit a snag, according to comments from the Secretary of Veterans Affairs on Wednesday.

In a forum hosted by Politico, David Shulkin said interoperability questions — involving the VA’s records management systems and civilian healthcare providers — have put contract negotiations and implementations on hold.

The total contract is estimated at $10 billion. Shulkin last month faced a Congressional panel frustrated by a project that has already spent $1 billion since 2009 with nothing to show for it. At the beginning of November, the committee approved legislation that spelled out accountability procedures for the contract.

He later asked the committee for $782 million in funding before the end of the year to get started with Cerner’s Millennium EHR product. Shulkin’s comments now seem to jeopardize that timeline, which Shulkin earlier said would add to the project’s cost.

In 2009, the Obama administration directed the VA to make its EHR management compatible with the Department of Defense, to benefit patients transferring from active duty healthcare to care in retirement.

The VA identified Cerner’s off-the-shelf solution as the best course of action; continuing with the in-house record system the VA itself developed is estimated to cost $19 billion over the next 10 years, not to mention the inconveniences that poses to veteran patients.

But on Wednesday, Shulkin indicated that because veterans may be treated by civilian physicians, that requires interoperability between the VA’s systems and private healthcare providers.

“We know the industry has struggled in achieving [interoperability], because of proprietary systems of vendors,” Shulkin said.

From here, Shulkin has speculated that the VA could run tests involving patients going through the existing system, tracking what kind of data is shared, with whom it is shared, and how timely that is.

Read the full story here.

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