Former VA CIO confident Cerner contract will move forward despite leadership shake up

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Former Department of Veterans Affairs CIO Scott Blackburn, who abruptly left the agency April 17, said he is confident the VA's plan to tap Cerner for its EHR overhaul will push forward despite a number of leadership changes within the agency, Federal Times reports.

Speaking at an April 23 Government Information Technology Executive Council summit, Mr. Blackburn said "The plan is still to move forward. Myself leaving or Secretary [David] Shulkin leaving should not have much impact on that," according to Federal Times. "Things are still moving forward to the best of my knowledge, and I'm looking forward to seeing that contract signed in the next couple of months."

Former Secretary David Shulkin, MD, left the agency March 29 when President Donald Trump tweeted that he "intend[s] to nominate highly respected Admiral Ronny L. Jackson, MD, as the new Secretary of Veterans Affairs." Dr. Jackson, who's confirmation hearing was scheduled for April 24, has faced criticism over his experience and allegations of improper conduct as the White House physician. The hearing has been postponed.

Mr. Blackburn noted new team members may take awhile to get up to speed on the VA's EHR modernization efforts, but he does not think the agency's contract with Cerner will ultimately be jeopardized.

"I think after Secretary Shulkin left, you have to give the new folks — whether it's acting Secretary [Robert] Wilkie or hopefully soon-to-be Secretary [Ronny] Jackson, I hope it's a quick confirmation process — a little bit of time to understand what they're signing," Mr. Blackburn said. "But the majority of the team is still in place, and they've done a fantastic job. We're basically at the goal line and I think the folks are just taking a little bit of a pause to understand and make sure it's set up for success."

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