Cerner president blames unnamed competitor for 'fake news' about DOD's EHR rollout

In a shareholders meeting one day after Cerner signed a $10 billion, 10-year deal to be the Veterans Affairs Department's new EHR vendor, Cerner President Zane Burke suggested reports that disparaged its work for the U.S. Defense Department were "fake news" that may have involved "one of our competitors," The Kansas City Star reports.

In June 2017, VA announced Cerner would overhaul its legacy EHR and place the agency on the same health records system as the DOD, which began its transition to the North Kansas City-based vendor in February 2017.

It took VA nearly one year to sign the contract, after a number of concerns delayed the award. The latest snag in the process involved an April 30 Pentagon report that found Cerner to be "neither operationally effective nor operationally suitable" at the agency's first three pilot sites.

But Mr. Burke struck back, defending Cerner's project with the DOD.

"I have learned the term fake news, a little bit," Mr. Burke said, according to the Star. "On one side, there's been some concern about some of the delivery on the Department of Defense side. I'll tell you that's gone incredibly well overall. There were some known elements up front as we rolled out the first three sites. The plan always was to come back and do a remediation of those three sites, do an evaluation and make things better."

Mr. Burke said he believes a competitor may be involved in the negative report's dissemination, but he didn't name a company.

"If you had an ax to grind with us and wanted to perhaps keep us from getting to a Veterans contract, and you're one of our competitors, you might want to use some information negatively. There was some negative information out there," Mr. Burke said.

Cerner's most-well-known competitor, Epic, declined to comment on the Star report, but Epic's founder and CEO Judy Faulkner previously stated her company does not plan to challenge the VA's choice. "We've never challenged anything," Ms. Faulkner said in March. "We don't do that. We feel it's the customer's right to pick whatever they want."

An Epic spokesperson provided the following statement to Becker's Hospital Review. "Epic was not involved in publicizing the DOD report calling Cerner's MHS Genesis project, "neither operationally effective, nor operationally suitable." We would suggest that instead of dismissing these concerns as "fake news," Cerner help its users by fixing the problems outlined in the report."

Editor's note: This article was updated May 21, 2018 at 3:41 p.m. to include a statement from Epic. 

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