VA's supply chain modernization efforts lagging, lawmaker tells acting CIO

Hannah Mitchell -

Lawmakers are concerned with the rocky rollout of the Department of Veterans Affairs' dollar supply chain modernization effort as the United States’ largest healthcare system simultaneously struggles with its $16 billion Cerner EHR implementation, according to an Oct. 5 Federal News Network report.

Seven things to know:

  1. The VA's $16 billion Cerner EHR implementation has been in the spotlight for more than a year over several pauses. However, the VA's supply chain modernization initiatives also have had a rocky rollout. The supply chain efforts have been in the works for two years, with some estimates putting the price tag on those efforts at $2 billion, according to the report.

  2. The initiative aims to move the VA from its Defense Medical Logistics Standard Support to the Defense Logistics Agency to modernize the system and move to new vendors, according to the report. However, a July court ruling paused the transition to the Defense Logistics Agency's medical and surgical contracts. The system also has been implemented at only one VA health center.

  3. Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee, told Neil Evans, MD, who is acting CIO of the VA, during a Sept. 30 hearing that modernizing the VA’s supply chain systems is a high priority, and progress has slowed even with the extra Coronavirus, Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act money the VA was provided, according to the report.

  4. "I’ve got to tell you that failure to modernize the system is not an option," Mr. Takano said. "I know Dr. Evans you are new to your position as acting CIO, but this is a priority and I hope that you all will focus on it. I know this is a long-standing problem, but we have to get our arms around it," Federal News Network reported.

  5. A committee aide for the Republican party said the transition is projected to be completed by 2027, three years later than the initial goal, according to the report. The aide said the VA could skip an on-site rollout and adopt a cloud system, which would be available in 2025.

  6. "If an inventory management system is the most important thing, which we agree with, let’s go out and identify the best one and buy it," the aide said. "We know VA struggles with multiyear, multibillion-dollar big bang IT programs. We believe we can avoid doing another one of those and meet the requirements for a modern system in a better, faster, more agile way," Federal News Network reported.

  7. The committee will meet in November to discuss the efforts.

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