CIO says VA should rethink VistA, consider other off-the-shelf EHRs

In reaction to GAO recommendations, the department’s undersecretary for health also said the agency is challenging all of the assumptions that have made VistA an underperforming part of the department.
By Jack McCarthy
11:24 AM

U.S. Department of Veterans' Affairs CIO LaVerne Council said last week that the VA needs to reconsider whether its proprietary Veterans Information Systems and Technology Architecture is the best electronic health record for its more than 1,200 healthcare sites.

Council explained during testimony to U.S. House appropriators that changes in the VA's healthcare delivery plan, such as emphasis on mobility, security and women's health, as well as connections with private sector providers, are forcing the reconsideration of VistA.

Specifically, Council said it was time to "take a step back" from the planned modernization of the VistA health record and announced VA plans to review whether it should continue upgrading VistA or turn to a commercial off-the-shelf product, much the way the Department of Defense elected to forego its in-house Armed Forces Health Longitudinal Technology Application, aka AHLTA, and is replacing it with a Cerner EHR.

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“We have not made up our minds about VistA,” Council said.

When asked during a separate hearing last week by Montana Democrat Sen. Jon Tester why it’s taking so long to either fix or replace VistA, VA undersecretary David Shulkin, MD, explained that Council “has gone in with her private sector background and really challenged all of the assumptions that frankly have led to an underperforming part of the organization.”

Council and Shulkin’s comments come after the Government Accountability Office published recommendations in Late February that both VA and DOD “develop and compare the estimated cost and schedule of their current and previous approaches to creating an interoperable electronic health record and, if applicable, provide a rationale for pursuing a more costly or time-consuming approach.”

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