Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary David Shulkin, M.D., said that it is time to push forward with the department’s plan to modernize its electronic health record (EHR) system and create “as great an interoperability solution as is technologically possible,” according to a report in Nextgov.
According to the report, at a forum hosted by Politico last week, Shulkin stated that he is not “going to fall back on waiting for the perfect because you’re always going to wait,” adding, ““Most of the arguments in government are reasons to not take action and maintain the status quo, and that’s what got us into this trouble in the first place.”
The VA announced in June that it will replace its aging EHR system, called VistA, by adopting the same platform as the U.S. Department of Defense, a Cerner EHR system. However, the agency also said at the time that while it would be a similar Cerner platform as DoD, it would not be identical, citing the need to create an “integrated” product in order to achieve interoperability with other healthcare provider organizations.
Since then, senators have pushed the agency for a timeline for VA’s Cerner EHR project and for plans to ensure that the technology systems of the VA and DoD will be integrated. During an October House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs hearing, Shulkin told lawmakers that it will be seven or eight years before Cerner's EHR system is fully implemented throughout all VA locations.
Reports have surfaced that the VA-Cerner contract will be in the $10 billion range, making it one of the largest health IT implementations in history. Shulkin recently said that the department is facing a “time crunch” in its Cerner EHR project and that VA is requesting Congress to reprogram almost $800 million from its current budget to get started on the work.
Meanwhile, the VA has also recently published its EHR requirements for the contract. According to a review of the documents by Politico’s Morning eHealth newsletter, VA included a detailed list of interoperability requirements, “saying Cerner must provide the VA with a level of secure information exchange considerably superior to current industry standards.” What’s more, VA’s list said that within “two years of the contract signing, the Cerner system should enable the VA to share referral management, as well as admission and discharge notifications. It must also create a solution for ‘identification and management of veterans at high risk of suicide,’” as reported by Politico.
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