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VA Under Fire for Cerner EHR Contract Delay, Outside Interference

VA subcommittee members demand information about the continued Cerner EHR contract delays and rumors about inappropriate outside interference.

VA subcommittee members want answers for the delays in Cerner EHR contract negotiations.

Source: Thinkstock

By Kate Monica

- VA Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Ranking Member Annie Kuster (D-NH) and Subcommittee on Health Ranking Member Julia Brownley (D-CA) recently requested that VA Acting Secretary Robert Wilkie and VA Inspector General Michael Missal investigate continued delays in Cerner EHR contract negotiations, as well as rumors that inappropriate outside interference may have contributed to these delays.

These requests were partly spurred by reports from Politico that a Florida doctor — Bruce Moskowitz, MD — may have interfered with VA’s Cerner EHR contract negotiations. Moskowitz is a personal friend of President Trump’s. He has no official ties to VA.

Kuster and Brownley requested Wilkie provide the VA committee with information on the status of the contract. Additionally, the ranking members requested Missal investigate the report of inappropriate influence and interference on VA contract negotiations by outside individuals.

“The outdated and obsolete electronic health records (EHR) system used by the Department of Veterans Affairs desperately needs to be overhauled to improve care and services for veterans in New Hampshire and across the country,” said Kuster.

“I’m disturbed by reports that individuals without any role at the VA may have hampered efforts to move forward with reforms that would update VA’s EHR system and allow full interoperability with the Department of Defense and community providers,” she continued.

Kuster called the delays “unacceptable” and stated VA needs to know the cause of these delays and how they will be overcome.

“Our veterans deserve seamless health care from the VA and its partners, and that goal simply cannot happen when the VA is using systems designed decades ago,” she stated. “We owe it to our veterans to ensure that the VA is operating at the highest possible level.”

Several recent disruptions at VA have contributed to delays in contract negotiations. In April, the Senate ruled to postpone the confirmation hearing for Ronny Jackson, MD, to take over as the new VA secretary in place of former secretary David Shulkin, MD.

Veterans service organizations AMVETS called the confirmation delay “the latest in an excruciating series of recent events that continue to undermine the best interest of veterans.”

Jackson ultimately withdrew as presidential VA secretary nominee after allegations surfaced about his professional conduct and managerial abilities.

Kuster and Brownley similarly consider the continued delays in contract negotiations to be a disservice to veterans.

“A new electronic health record system — that better connects with DOD health records — is imperative for improving care for our country’s veterans,” said Brownley.

“Any delay in implementation is simply unacceptable, especially one that has been caused by inappropriate interference by personal friends of the President, whose qualifications and conflicts of interest are unclear,” Brownley continued. “Caring for our veterans is too important to allow this to continue.”

Along with Kuster and Brownley, congressmen Mark Takano (D-CA) and J. Luis Correa (D-CA) also signed the letters.

In their letter to Wilkie, subcommittee members requested an explanation for VA’s failure to execute a contract with Cerner, an analysis of the 51 recommendations provided by MITRE Corps as part of an interoperability assessment, and details about the remaining actions VA plans to take prior to finalizing contract negotiations with Cerner, among other information.

Members wrote Missal requesting a thorough investigation of all non-governmental individuals that may have improperly influenced VA’s effort to launch its EHR implementation project.

“Simply put, updating the VA’s EHR is too important to the health and wellbeing of the 9 million veterans enrolled in VA healthcare for the process to be stymied by interference from outside political forces,” wrote subcommittee members. “The process must be completely transparent and accountable, while ensuring the highest standards of patient care and responsible use of taxpayer resources.”

The VA Cerner EHR contract is expected to total about $16 billion.

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