$10 billion electronic health record contract approved for Veterans Affairs

Newswire: May 17, 2018.

Dateline: Washington.

The government on Thursday approved a contract with Cerner Corp. to overhaul the electronic health record system of the Department of Veterans Affairs. The 10-year, $10 billion contract is one of the largest in the VA’s history.

The work is meant to align the VA’s electronic health records with the Department of Defense’s, improving continuity of care as U.S. servicemembers transition from active duty to retirement. The move has faced skepticism from lawmakers over its cost and scope and concerns that there may be many problems ahead for the program.

Just last week, the Pentagon’s director of operational test and evaluation said that a partial rollout of Cerner’s EHR management for the Defense Department is “neither operationally effective nor operationally suitable.” The report blamed inaccurate data and a confusing layout of the electronic records.

Complicating its passage, also, was the role of Dr. David Shulkin, the former Secretary of Veterans Affairs. In November, Shulkin faced a tough Congressional panel and asked for $782 million to begin implementing Cerner’s Millennium EHR product. Then, in December, he indicated that questions involving interoperability had put contract negotiations on hold. Shulkin was fired in late March over an unrelated matter.

Acting Secretary Robert Wilkie said in a statement that the new contract “will modernize the VA’s health care IT system and help provide seamless care.” Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, said that chamber will vote this week on a bill to give veterans more ability to choose doctors outside the VA system. The House of Representatives passed legislation addressing that matter on Wednesday.

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