How Jared Kushner helped the VA pick Cerner... quickly
When the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs announced in early June that the agency would move its outdated EHR system to Cerner, Congress and President Donald Trump hailed the decision as the best route to data sharing between the VA and the Department of Defense.
Many people in the government and healthcare sectors were surprised at how quickly the VA made its choice and the fact that it did so without the usual request for information and request for proposal procedures that are common in large-scale IT acquisitions.
Now, a leaked audio obtained by Wired of a question and answer session with congressional interns led by presidential senior adviser and President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner sheds some light on how the decision was made for the government to go with Cerner.
“If you’re going to the VA, they basically have one source of customers, which is the Department of Defense. So what happened is, you leave the Department of Defense and it’ll take you about six months to get your medical records transferred over to the VA, which makes absolutely no sense why they’ve got two separate systems,” Kushner said. “You should be, six months before you leave the Department of Defense, they should have the VA doctor start to check you, get your regimen, make sure your mental health is good, make sure you’re kind of adjusting back to civilian life the best way possible.”
Kushner went on to discuss his meetings with VA Secretary David Shulkin, MD, and Defense Secretary James Mattis.
“Dr. Shulkin and I talked about this issue, called Secretary Mattis, he sent over his top five people on the EMRs, and we got contract people from the VA on the EMRs, electronic medical records. We said, ‘Guys, we want a solution to some of the systems. It’s absolutely crazy.’ They came back in two weeks with something that made a lot of sense.”
Kushner added that the VA has been holding hearings on what to do about its proprietary VistA EHR since 2000.
“So it’s been 16 years and nothing’s happened,” Kushner said. “We finally got everyone on the same page, and within two months started planning the migration of the whole system.”
The VA EHR is one piece of the government’ technological infrastructure that Kushner, who heads the American Office of Innovation, is looking to improve.
“We spend about $90 billion a year on IT and it’s really not very well run,” he said. “So we think there’s a way to save a lot of money, do it much better, and a much better technical infrastructure, for a lot of what really applies to the operations in government. That’s a big focus of ours.”