The VA's $16B Cerner EHR rollout: 8 recent updates

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The Department of Veterans Affairs and Cerner have signed several large contracts and have made key leadership changes to get their $16 billion EHR rollout on track.

Below are eight updates on the EHR initiative since Sept. 1:

Leadership:

  1. Guy Kiyokawa, a nominee for the assistant secretary of enterprise integration at the VA, was questioned by Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee Chair Jon Tester, D-Mont., at a nomination hearing, according to an Oct. 7 news release. Mr. Tester asked Mr. Kiyokawa to clarify why he qualifies for the position, which is tasked with the VA's EHR rollout.

  2. Mr. Tester said, "It's no secret that the VA is in the midst of deploying a new electronic health records system and that this program has not rolled out as smoothly as anyone has wanted."

  3. Mr. Kiyokawa responded to Mr. Tester at the hearing, saying: "One of the key things is to have that true IT infrastructure backbone. One thing we learned early on when we were bringing those services together to have that single backbone — it has to be reliable. And lastly, once we got it going, we developed something called the 'Pay it Forward' program, where we had actual providers who had deployed it at their site physically go to [the] next site and sit down with their peers. And it was that peer-to-peer relationship that started to get the buy-in that's so important to change management."

  4. Krishnakumar Kuntipuram was named lead federal project manager at Cerner, Fed Health IT reported Sept. 7. Mr. Kuntipuram has previously worked as an IT manager and has experience managing multimillion-dollar contracts with the federal government at the Veterans Health Administration and Defense Department.

  5. Neil Evans, MD, was appointed acting CIO of the Department of Veterans Affairs. Dr. Evans will also lead the VA's healthcare modernization and innovation initiatives. Dr. Evans has been with the VA in several clinical informatics roles over the past two decades. He also has served as interim director of the federal EHR modernization program, which includes VA's $16 billion EHR implementation project with Cerner. 

Contracts:

  1. Cerner is obligated to receive $14 million in funding from a nine-month contract valued at $23.9 million, Fed Health IT reported Sept. 13. The funding was awarded under Cerner's existing EHR modernization ID code with the VA.

  2. Cerner was also awarded an 18-month contract valued at $134.1 million to continue its EHR rollout with the VA, Fed Health IT reported Sept. 9. Cerner is obligated to receive $113 million of the contract's value.

  3. The Department of Veterans Affairs contracted an independent party to review Cerner's $16 billion EHR rollout and provide an accurate cost estimate. The review will last one year and will account for all costs associated with the rollout, including the cost to hire the independent review party and infrastructure that needs to be updated.

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