Congressman calls on Coast Guard to sign up for Cerner EHR

Duncan Hunter told Coast Guard officials they should not waste resources looking for a new product when the DoD and VA have already chosen to deploy Cerner’s EHR platform.
By Bernie Monegain
04:44 PM
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Coast Guard EHR vendor

U.S. Representative Duncan Hunter, R-California, told Coast Guard officials at a hearing of the Sub-Committee of House Transportation and Infrastructure Tuesday to consider piggy-backing on the Department of Defense or Veteran Affairs EHRs, rather than shopping for yet another EHR system.

“Why waste money and time to go look for things that exist already, right now?” he asked.

If the Coast Guard were to take Hunter’s recommendation, it could likely mean another new contract for the health IT giant Cerner. Both the DoD and the VA have tapped Cerner for their EHR.

[Also: How the Coast Guard’s ugly, Epic EHR break-up played out]

The Coast Guard remains without an EHR since it abruptly dropped its plans to go live with an Epic EHR more than two years ago. Moreover, it has used a paper-based system since.

A report from the Government Accountability Office paints what some have dubbed a “debacle” as exactly that. According to GAO, the Coast Guard allowed program managers to act without sufficient oversight by acquisition professionals. Even when the Coast Guard established policies to provide oversight for information technology acquisitions – such as the Integrated Health Information System project – they did not implement any oversight, David Powner, director of IT Management for GAO, told the subcommittee.

Powner laid out a number of reasons the project floundered and was eventually abandoned by the Coast Guard when he appeared today before the subcommittee today. He blames the Coast Guard.

Rear Admiral Erica Schwartz, director of health, safety and work-life for the Coast Guard told the subcommittee today the CIO had not been involved in the project, Rear Admiral Michael Haycock, assistant commandant for acquisition and chief acquisition officer for the Coast Guard, added the Coast Guard have since taken steps to improve oversight of projects.

“We understand the Service is following its acquisition policies for the current effort, and has conducted significant research which pointed to a recommended solution of using an existing federal agency system,” Hunter said. “The Coast Guard needs to show what it’s learned and how things have changed, as it works to finally implement an electronic health record system.”

[Also: Shulkin: VA-Cerner EHR deal paused over interoperability concerns]

The cost of the abandoned Epic project was estimated to be $60 million. Epic has noted on its website the government paid in full.

“We need to hear more about the policies and procedures that are now in place to prevent the waste of taxpayer money in the future,” Hunter said.

Twitter: @Bernie_HITN
Email the writer: bernie.monegain@himssmedia.com