VA Secretary: Cerner tasked with EHR, won't scrap rest of VistA

While the vendor will be the same as the DoD's system, VA's platform will be designed to meet particulars that are vastly different, David Shulkin, MD, told the Senate VA committee on Wednesday.
By Jessica Davis
04:42 PM

In his first Capitol Hill appearance since the VA announced it would replace its electronic health record with a Cerner system, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, MD, shed some light on just what the move would mean.

In a brief mention of the department's IT needs during testimony before the Senate VA Committee on Wednesday, Shulkin clarified that the VA would not be scrapping VistA completely, and the agency would obviously be maintaining the 30-year-old record system.

However, Cerner would be specifically tasked with the EHR component of the IT system.

"While it's a decision to move forward with the same vendor as the DoD, it won't be an identical platform … we're different organizations," said Shulkin.

Shulkin also mentioned that the VA needs a program designed to work on interoperability with all of the VA's partners.

"We have to be interoperable with our community partners, as well," said Shulkin, explaining that about 80 percent of the community partners aren't running on the Cerner platform.

[Also: Will Cerner rollout at VA advance interoperability? Maybe]

Sen. Joseph Manchin, D-West Virginia, pressed Shulkin on the speed of this decision: "Are you concerned about having one vendor manage all of these records?"

"The U.S. Department of Defense went through a strong due diligence in choosing Cerner, and the VA will benefit from their due diligence," said Shulkin. "There's always a risk when making a decision of this magnitude. … The greater risk was doing nothing."

When it comes to the cost, and how the VA will know it's getting the best price for the system, Shulkin referenced what the DoD paid – and compared it with the price the VA is already paying to maintain its current system.

Further, he stressed the agency's lack of ability to maintain software developers.

"Most of the cost of the switch with an EHR is in cost management," said Shulkin. "We'll be seeking the best way to do this for taxpayers."

Shulkin said the VA will work with appropriators to make sure the agency is making the right decision.

Twitter: @JessieFDavis
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