Poll: Choosing Cerner for VA wasn't a surprise, but not necessarily the best call

While some respondents said the EHR choice makes sense, others lament lack of competitive bidding, costs.
By Wendy Almeida
09:10 AM

We asked our readers if they were surprised the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs chose Cerner as their EHR vendor. Out of the 727 respondents, 77.4 percent said this decision was expected. For many, it confirmed earlier speculation in favor of Cerner since the vendor was already working on modernizing the health record for the U.S. Department of Defense.

Readers had a variety of thoughts on the reasons why this was a good (or bad) move for the agency. 

“Choosing proven and established EHR system over ailing homegrown EHR is a good decision.”

A few readers were “shocked this is being awarded without competition.“ While others were hopeful it “will push interoperability… as many vets get care outside of VA facilities.”

We rounded up some comments from the poll below.

As for who responded to the survey, 42.1 percent were hospitals/health systems while 34.5 percent were vendors, 7.1 percent worked for government agencies. The final 16.3 percent were a diverse number of workplaces.  


What are your thoughts on the VA's choice? –(workplace)
They did not do any research, just took the easiest route. –Hospital/Health System
Amazing, best EMR by far. They invest more in R&D than others make in revenue a year. Also, they aren't Epic where they will nickel and dime us tax payers. Not to mention how every Epic implementation results in the C-level getting fired due to over budget, not on time, and huge end user dissatisfaction. –Hospital/Health System
An obvious effort at privatization that will ultimately harm veterans. –Retired USAF/USN
Appropriate and path of least resistance. –Hospital/Health System
Bad system and lack of record sharing ability across states and other EHRs.  –Hospital/Health System
Cerner has had its issues in the past. This is a major overhaul. –Government agency
Cerner has made little effort to work with practices on ECQM captures. I hope the VA forces them to do so for them so that the other practices across the country may benefit. –Insurance company
Cerner is a good choice but I worry about proprietary issues when Cerner doesn't want to share information with the VA. –Hospital/Health System
Cerner is difficult to work with as an OS. Didn't like it when my company used it 6 years ago. –Home health care
Cerner was a good choice. Hopefully, they can actually implement the EMR at the VA. We'll see. –Hospital/Health System
Cerner's focus on interoperability over the past few years has put it far ahead of Epic, which is just now realizing the world it has controlled has changed. It's questionable as to how real Epic's conversion is. –Vendor
Cerner's solutions based on the Millennium platform are solid, but describing them as 'off the shelf' is a stretch. –Hospital/Health System
Choosing proven and established EHR system over ailing homegrown EHR is a good decision. –IT Enabled Services
Companies like WLT, Tri-Zetto and others would have been far less costly and the gov't would get the full attention of the Vets, needs software development company.
Continuity of medical records is key to success for the veteran. –Government agency
Corrupt, very very costly, wrong-headed. Driven by the failure to support VistA modernization for years and DoD resistance despite DoD Physician support. A multibillion sole source, shameful.
Creating healthier stories. I'm thrilled that Cerner will deliver a global EHR improving care across the cost continuum. –Vendor
Doesn't solve the need for interoperability with civilian providers who provide care for 50% of vets and their dependents. This is a critical issue that can't be ignored. –Hospital/Health System
Don't be surprised if the cost double or triple and results will be lots of headaches! –Vendor
Excellent, since DOD works with VA in terms of transferring EHR data for their Vets. It is imperative they choose Cerner. –Vendor
Finally, a government agency makes the right IT decision! Epic and Cerner will never "interoperate," never! Education: We use Nehr Perfect to train students.
Good choice but will they be able to interface with Epic? –Hospital/Health System
Good choice, Epic is too expensive and limited interoperability. –Analytics
Good move, but changing vendors won't solve the issues once and for all. Implementation and development is key to EHR success. –Hospital/Health System
Having worked with Cerner's EHR and others, the VA has made an excellent choice. Cerner's truest integrated system and ability to share data with other systems outperforms the other EHRs. –Insurance company
Hopefully, this will push interoperability throughout systems, as many vets get care outside of VA facilities. –Hospital/Health System
Horrible, naive and definitely political. –Revenue cycle
I am shocked that this is being awarded without competition. –Hospital/Health System
I don't think VA had much choice. It's IT development was abandoned years ago by budget cuts. –Retired
I hope it achieves the stated goal of DoD and VA sharing and continues to provide the existing capabilities of VistA.
I think an off the shelf vendor is the right approach. Given that DOD also uses Cerner makes the decision by the va to go with Cerner more practical. –Vendor
I think it is a great choice. This move adds competition to the EMR marketplace and helps equip the VA with the proper tools they need to improve care and patient outcomes. –Hospital/Health System
If it works quickly, it's worth it. –Hospital/Health System
In line with the DOD. Pretty much as expected. Keeps Epic honest with another large competitor in the market. –Hospital/Health System
Increased security issues with both agencies on the same system? Increased commitment to EHR systems costs? –Hospital/Health System
Inferior product. EPIC is better given the VA's previous EMR. –Physician practice/Ambulatory
Interoperability may be more difficult than suggested. –Hospital/Health System
It is cost effective and expedient to use the same system. It will also make the transition much easier. –Retired military
It makes great sense to have veteran's record in the same system. Vista is past time to retire! –Hospital/Health System
It needed to happen! Time to stop wasting money on interoperability! Blah, blah, blah no more! –Vendor
It was the right decision and will be a boon for Cerner. –Hospital/Health System
It will be a huge project that will cost taxpayers billions but our veterans are well worth it. –Physician practice/Ambulatory
It won't do anything for a workable maintenance and PM system. Vista is a dinosaur and the VA continues to try and use it for infrastructure. They have the rights to Maximo and won't release it's use to the VISN's. You want to improve veterans care then fix the failing infrastructure of 40-plus year old hospitals. –EHR company
It would be better to consult a government organization with a more proven technical track record like 18F for a plan on replacing VistA. We're moving from one problem to another. –Government agency
It'll sink Cerner. –Vendor
It's a good move. There are now capable EMR products from multiple vendors - modern, mature and with a lower overall price than self-developed. The VA should be providing services for care, not building their own EMR. –Hospital/Health System
It's a pretty dumb move. There are better EHR systems, and VistA is a surprisingly robust open source system. –Hospital/Health System
It's definitely a step in the right direction. However, it won't solve all of the VA's problems as they are not held to the same standards as other health care systems. –Med School
It's the right choice. Any other choice would have provided, at best, equivalent "in house" functionality but greatly diminished the ability to inter-operate. The choice also significantly reduces the cost to the taxpayer. –Vendor
Let's hope the VA holds the vendor to the burner on implementation. –Hospital/Health System
More affordable and better for taxpayers, plus interoperability functionality and pop health solutions/services are more robust. –Hospital/Health System
Obvious choice, but does not force interoperability across the entire market. I wish they would have chosen another vendor to force more interoperability across the board. –Hospital/Health System
Optimistic. Also wondering if money was thrown around, or VA genuinely chose Cerner because of interoperability with DoD. –Intelligent Medical Objects
Politically motivated. EHR companies are peddling snake oil when there's no reason the software can't be free!
Poor choice.DOD is already behind schedule. –Hospital/Health System
Poor, ill-informed decision. Healthcare software is a reflection of healthcare professionals and much of the IT staff has dual training and experience. –Hospital/Health System
Rationale behind the decision is faulty. They are not going to have seamless integration simply by implementing Millennium, as they will be on different instances of the software and no more connected than if they had chosen the other vendor solution. Decision sounds good unless you know better. By announcing Cerner is VOC without going to market, they lose whatever negotiating leverage they might have had otherwise. Glad to see the government work quickly, but as a taxpayer would have preferred they entertain other bids to keep Cerner honest. –Physician practice/Ambulatory
Seemed to be the logical choice, with Cerner emphasizing interoperability, while their biggest competitor, Epic, keeps more of the business internal. –Vendor
Seems logical. Now what about the Coast Guard? –Vendor
So where do the prime contractors, Accenture and Leidos fit into this picture? Interesting. –Vendor
Surpised Epic was not considered or chosen. Epic seems to be the more prominent EHR available on the market today.  –Hospital/Health System
Terrible choice, Vista is a better more customizable EHR. Cost savings measure at the expense of functionality. –Government agency
Terrible for vets. Huge expenditures and disruptions that will adversely affect vets by cutting into funds and facilities that they could better use. –Vendor
Terrible. How could the best hospitals in the country go with Epic...but not the government? Our veterans aren't good enough to get the best system? C'mon now, bush league. –Hospital/Health System
The decision seems a bit premature. The VA needs to first see how the Cerner rollout at DoD sites progresses and if it succeeds. It is currently taking almost a year to implement at one small Air Force site. Hopefully there is more transparency in reporting progress to the government and the public. –Retired computer consultant
The hospital/health system that I work for provides care to veterans. We are also a Cerner shop. I am glad to see that we can (hopefully) close the gap of missing information between the VA and the providers at my facilities to provide better, more consistent care. –Retired
The project will go over budget and probably never go live. –Hospital/Health System
The VA should've stuck with VISTA and in-house development. Congress and the Trump Administration were completely swayed by lobbyists and didn't listen to users or anyone familiar with VISTA and how it is used and could be modernized much cheaper and more effectively by VA developers, following the same methods and principles used in its original development. –Hospital/Health System
The VA-developed VistA software has a history of undocumented ad hoc changes, thrown-together cut-and-paste programming styles, and massive cronyism and nepotism. It could have been managed properly, but VA management chose not to do so. –Vendor
There is much work remaining to be done with any EHR that the VA uses to provide the best care possible to Veterans. –Retired
They did it because the DOD choose them. I think Cerner's biggest issue is that it tries to be everything to everyone (i.e. EHR software platform, network hosting, solution services, and hardware vendor) that they can't possibly have the high quality in any particular thing which makes the quality come down. –Retired; former VA IT employee
They will continue to be stunned at the complexity, years to implement, safety, security, loss of efficiency, etc. even thought DOD and Cerner are using same basic EHR. I predict massive problems. –Hospital/Health System
They've been negotiating this deal for almost 3 years. They selected Cerner a long time ago. –Physician practice/Ambulatory
"This is an $11B travesty. The DoD should have accepted the free copy of Vista when offered years ago. Vista has been interoperable for many years sharing patient information with other Vas, hospitals, and community providers of care.
As for Cerner, they have not been able to implement the DoD system yet. What makes anyone think they will be able to implement 40 years of data for the VA? Total waste of OUR taxpayer's dollars and a waste of precious resources. I pray for our care providers trying to work with this mess and our veterans trying to receive their care. –Hospital/Health System
This may help with interoperability between DoD and VA, but what about the rest of the nation? –Physician practice/Ambulatory
This puts our veterans as a top priority - exactly where they should be! –Hospital/Health System
This will end up in tears. –Vendor
Throwing away the best system for one that hasn't been installed and working in one facility DOD. Plus, if the contract is like DOD's, then Cerner will own the data. Tthat means no possible path away from Cerner. –Medical School
Too soon to determine if Cerner's DoD platform is a sound model. –Vendor
VA is finally moving in the right direction abandoning the archaic way of storing or sharing veterans health data to a more seamless process. Cerner is the top 2 EMRs used in United States. I am proud of the decision made by Congress/ President Trump by moving from VistA to a real time EMR capability such as Cerner. –Retired IT Developer with VA
Wait til they find out the low bat on user experience found in Cerner. –Government agency
What about community/care continuum interoperabilty? As it the data will still be trapped in a Cerner silo and tools to improve outcomes remain elusive. Not only that, Cerner still has yet to prove they can get the DoD done. –Vendor
Wildly ignorant of the magnitude of the task of transitioning from VistA to Cerner. This is a project that will take decades, given the size of the VA database. –Vendor
Wonderful, but they will need to update all VHA computers as they are all very old. This is partially why the move to Cerner did not happen in the past. –Consultancy
Would prefer Epic. –Vendor

Twitter: @wea1021
Email the web producer: wendy.almeida@himssmedia.com

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