Not only is the decision a "cost-effective" step toward modernizing VA's electronic health record - now the Veterans Information Systems and Technology Architecture, or VistA -but it also makes it so the medical records between the department and the DOD will be interoperable.
The Department of Veterans Affairs is moving away from their longtime electronic health records system, looking to a commercial EHR technology more along the lines of those being utilized by the Dept. of Defense and the Military Health System (MHS).
Cerner was awarded a almost $5 billion contract in 2015 to revamp the DoD health records.
Shulkin also said that going with a system already in use with the DoD will reduce risk and improve cybersecurity, as this commercial system has already been vetted by the DoD's high standards.
The D&F notes that there is a public interest exception to the requirement for full and open competition, and determines that the VA may issue a solicitation directly to Cerner Corporation for the acquisition of the EHR system now being deployed by DoD, for deployment and transition across the VA enterprise in a manner that meets VA needs, and which will enable seamless healthcare to Veterans and qualified beneficiaries.
"It's time to move forward, and as secretary I was not willing to put this decision off any longer", Shulkin said.
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The VA has chosen Kansas City's own Cerner Corporation to lead the project. VA provides health care services to 27 million veterans.
For 17 years, Congress has called on VA to "not only modernize its system but work more closely with the Department of Defense", he said - but still each agency has forged ahead with different EHR systems. Soon after former President Barack Obama took office in 2009, he charged the VA and Defense Department with creating an integrated system. "So that's why this is so important", he said. "This is one of the biggest wins for our veterans in decades and I congratulate Secretary Shulkin for making this very important decision", Trump said.
Adoption of the same system "will ultimately result in all patient data residing in one common system", the secretary said. "And for that reason, VA, while it's adopting an identical EHR to DoD, needs additional capabilities to maximize interoperability with our community providers".
The announcement did not include any timeline for implementation, nor did it include the value of the contract. These inconsistent systems lead to unnecessary gaps in health care for veterans, many times when they need it most. Shulkin says because all VA patients originate in the Pentagon system, the VA needed to "trade information seamlessly". That liminal period, after active duty but "before you get enrolled either in VA healthcare or community healthcare", can be unsafe to vulnerable veterans.