- The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will begin implementing Cerner’s EHR in October in three Pacific Northwest hospitals and go live in March 2020, Acting VA Secretary Peter O’Rourke told a House committee Tuesday.
- The hospitals in Seattle, Spokane and American Lake, Washington, will be the first to undergo modernization under a 10-year project to overhaul the VA’s medical records system.
- Lawmakers at the Committee on Veterans Affairs hearing expressed concerns that a lack of stable leadership and transparency at the mammoth department could undermine the effort. “Leadership will make or break this project,” Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minnesota, said.
O’Rourke said the VA is working closely with the Department of Defense to avoid some of the problems DoD has encountered in its own implementation of Cerner’s EHR, and to “collaborate on best practices for business, functional, and IT workflows, with an emphasis on ensuring interoperability between the two agencies.” The Coast Guard is also joining DoD's rollout.
On Wednesday, VA Secretary nominee Robert Wilkie said during a hearing on his candidacy said he would not commit to going live with a new EHR system until it had been properly tested.
The VA’s Program Management Office will oversee costs, schedule and performance-quality objectives of the project and ensure risk-mitigation strategies are deployed where appropriate.
The project is set to replace the VA’s homegrown VistA medical records system, which is 40 years old and showing clear sign of wear and tear.
Cerner signed the contract in May. The company first announced the $10 billion no-bid contract in June 2017, but it was slow getting off the ground due to interoperability issues and reports that President Donald Trump’s inner circle may have influenced the delay.
Cerner blamed the slow progress for weaker-than-expected revenue growth in the first quarter of this year, despite a 12% year-over-year increase in bookings.
Walz pressed for additional oversight of the contract outside the VA. “The Government Accountability Office should be in attendance at every single governing board,” he said. “GAO must have direct and frequent access to VA, Cerner and program management support contractors.”
Committee Chairman Phil Roe, R-Tennessee, emphasized the size of the project. “$15.8 billion over 10 years, including $10 billion to Cerner, is a staggering number for an enormous government agency,” he said. “The EHR modernization effort is not just a technology project. It will have a major impact on how the Veterans Health Administration operates,” such as clinical and administrative workflows and culture.
The House is forming a small oversight panel to monitor the system’s implementation.