Electronic Health Records

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Epic Keeps VA Scheduling Contract Despite Cerner Decision

Epic will continue its $624-million contract with VA to develop an online scheduling system.

Epic EHR

Source: Thinkstock

By Kate Monica

- Epic Systems will maintain its contract with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) valued at more than $600 million despite the federal agency selecting Cerner to provide its replacement EHR technology.

Epic won the contract to develop VA’s online medical appointment scheduling program in 2015. The undertaking was then projected to take five years for an estimated value of $624 million.

At the time Epic won the contract, the Wisconsin-based vendor was working with Systems Made Simple, a subsidiary of Lockheed Martin later acquired by Leidos in August of 2016.

Systems Made Simple — now working under Leidos — recently received a $29-million task order contract with VA funding a year of work to modernize components of its health IT infrastructure.

Additionally, Leidos and Cerner together beat Epic and IBM for a Department of Defense (DoD) modernization contract in the summer of 2015 worth $4.3 billion over 10 years.

According to a Veterans Health Administration official, Epic has been developing a pilot project on the medical appointment software since February of this year.  The EHR company has stated results from the pilot program are expected in 18 months.

In VA Secretary David Shulkin’s announcement earliest this week of the federal agency’s decision to select Cerner to provide its new EHR technology, he did not immediately specify whether the Epic contract for the scheduling system would hold up.

However, a VA spokesman on Tuesday stated the Cerner contract relates only to its EHR system.

 “There is no connection to appointment scheduling, etc. and we expect no changes resulting from the new EHR contract,” VA spokesman Randal Noller told the Wisconsin State Journal.

Epic also released a public statement regarding its VA contract in light of the federal agency’s decision to side with Cerner.

“We are proud to serve our veterans both through the VA scheduling project and through our customers that care for millions of veterans across America,” said Epic spokeswoman Meghan Roh. “These customers are the top health systems in America and we stand with them, committed and eager to ensure veterans get the very best medical care regardless of where they receive it.”

The VA contract with Cerner ends a decades-long run with the federal agency’s homegrown system VistA EHR.

VA chose Cerner after a long stretch of deliberation including both internal and external feedback.

Improved health data exchange and interoperability between VA and DoD have posed challenges to both agencies for years.

“Without improved and consistently implemented national interoperability standards, VA and DoD will continue to face significant challenges if the Departments remain on two different systems,” stated Shulkin on Monday. “For these reasons, I have decided that VA will adopt the same EHR system as DoD, now known as MHS GENESIS, which at its core consists of Cerner Millennium.”

VA will not adopt an identical EHR system to Cerner, but the systems will be similar and both will be supported by Cerner platforms.

Additionally, Shulkin stated VA clinicians will have the opportunity to provide input and feedback through the Cerner EHR system development and implementation process.



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