VA picks Cerner to replace VistA; Trump says EHR will fix agency's data sharing 'once and for all'
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will replace the outdated VistA electronic health record with Cerner, the same EHR vendor that is overhauling the U.S. Department of Defense’s system, Secretary David Shulkin, MD, announced Monday.
Shulkin’s decision fulfills his promise to decide VistA’s fate before July 1.
Congress has railed on both agencies for decades to alleviate issues with its EHR systems and other healthcare organizations have been pushing for VA to make the shift to Cerner.
“To date, VA and DoD have not adopted the same EHR system,” Shulkin said in a statement. “Instead, VA and DoD have worked together for many years to advance EHR interoperability between their many separate applications -- at the cost of several hundred millions of dollars -- in an attempt to create a consistent and accurate view of individual medical record information.”
While Shulkin said the agencies are semi-interoperable, “seamless care is fundamentally constrained by ever-changing information sharing standards, separate chains of command, complex governance, separate implementation schedules that must be coordinated to accommodate those changes from separate program offices that have separate funding appropriations, and a host of related complexities requiring constant lifecycle maintenance.”
Under a ‘Determination and Findings’ -- a written approval to solicit directly to a vendor -- Shulkin will hand the EHR acquisition to Cerner for deployment and transition of the VA enterprise to Cerner.
Shulkin said this will “enable seamless healthcare to veterans and qualified beneficiaries."
VA will also adopt “significant cybersecurity enhancements” that leverage the current architecture, tools and processes already in place by the DoD. As the VA has separate needs from the DoD, VA won’t be simply installing the same EHR, but it will be based on a similar Cerner platform.
“We can’t wait years, as DoD did in its EHR acquisition process, to get our next generation EHR in place,” said Shulkin. “We’re embarking on creating something that has not been done before: an integrated product that, while utilizing the DoD platform, will require a meaningful integration with other vendors to create a system that serves Veterans in the best possible way.”
At an Air Traffic Control press conference, President Donald Trump lauded Shulkin and his decision:
“I’m pleased to say we are finally taking steps to finally solve this situation once and for all,” said Trump. “The records will now be able to follow the veteran as they leave service. Meaning, faster, better and far better quality care.”
“This is one of the biggest wins for our veterans in decades. And I congratulate Secretary Shulkin for making this very, very important decision,” he continued. “Of course there is still much work to do, but for today’s action, it shows the determined leadership and what it can accomplish: great, great reform. This is really monumental reform, but it’s just the beginning.”
Cerner, in a statement, said it was excited to take over the EHR.
"Earlier today, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced its decision to modernize its existing health records platform by choosing Cerner’s commercial off-the-shelf Millennium EHR solution," the company said. "We believe this project, in concert with ongoing progress towards implementing the Department of Defense’s MHS Genesis system, will lead to ongoing innovation, improved interoperability and the creation of a single longitudinal health record that can facilitate the efficient exchange of data among military care facilities and the thousands of civilian health care providers where current and former service members receive healthcare."