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VA Signs $10B Cerner EHR Implementation Contract

After months of delay, VA signed the Cerner EHR implementation contract to ensure interoperability with DoD.

VA has signed the Cerner EHR implementation contract.

Source: Thinkstock

By Kate Monica

- VA has signed a $10 billion Cerner EHR implementation contract to replace its homegrown legacy VistA system after months of ongoing negotiations.

“I am pleased to announce we have signed a contract with Cerner today that will modernize the VA’s health care IT system and help provide seamless care to Veterans as they transition from military service to Veteran status, and when they choose to use community care,” said Acting VA Secretary Robert Wilkie in a public statement.

While some VA house appropriations subcommittee members — including ranking member Representative Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL) — have stated the contract will cost $16 billion, Wilkie said the contract has a ceiling of $10 billion over ten years.

“And with a contract of that size, you can understand why former Secretary Shulkin and I took some extra time to do our due diligence and make sure the contract does what the President wanted,” said Wilkie.

“President Trump has made very clear to me that he wants this contract to do right by both Veterans and taxpayers, and I can say now without a doubt that it does,” he continued.

VA’s new Cerner EHR implementation will mirror that of the Department of Defense’s (DoD’s) own MHS GENESIS EHR system — also supported by a Cerner platform. By utilizing the same system, VA and DoD hope to improve interoperability between care sites.

With the new Cerner system, VA will be able to engage in seamless health data exchange with DoD and community providers.

Because health data exchange will be easier, Wilkie stated care coordination for VA providers will become simplified and faster. Wilkie also promised care delivery will become more transparent to all members of a veteran patient’s care team.

VA also plans to continue to add new capabilities and functionality to the Cerner EHR system as needed to best serve veterans, VA care providers, and community care providers in an ever-evolving healthcare system.

“When fully deployed, the new system will represent a monumental advance in Veterans’ health care — bigger than VA’s initial deployment of electronic health records 40 years ago,” wrote Wilkie.

VA and DoD will continue to closely collaborate to ensure VA can benefit from lessons learned during deployments at DoD care sites.

“We appreciate the DoD’s willingness to share its experiences implementing its electronic health record,” said Wilkie.

So far, VA has secured $782 million in funding for fiscal year 2018 to launch the implementation project.

“In sum, signing this contract today is an enormous win for our nation’s Veterans,” concluded Wilkie. “It puts in place a modern IT system that will support the best possible health care for decades to come. That’s exactly what our nation’s heroes deserve.”

VA is the third federal department to sign on for a Cerner EHR system. In April, the Coast Guard announced it will adopt DoD’s MHS GENESIS system and join DoD’s existing $4.3 billion contract.

“We’re honored to have the opportunity to improve the health care experience for our nation’s veterans,” said Cerner President Zane Burke in a public statement about the VA contract signing. “The VA has a long history of pioneering health care technology innovation, and we look forward to helping deliver high-quality outcomes across the continuum of care.

Burke stated Cerner will collaborate with VA throughout the implementation to ensure seamless care for service members transitioning from active duty to VA medical centers and community providers.

"We expect this program to be a positive catalyst for interoperability across the public and private health care sectors, and we look forward to moving quickly with organizations across the industry to deliver on the promise of this mission,” Burke concluded.

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