VA Cerner rollout price tag climbs to $18.5B

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The price tag of the Department of Veteran Affairs's Cerner EHR rollout could go up another $2.5 billion, according to a July 7 report by the Office of the Inspector General.

Five things to know:

  1. The cost was originally budgeted at $10 billion, then got a 60 percent increase to $16 billion. Now it could need a bump of $2.5 billion to account for IT infrastructure updates, the report said.

  2. Lawmakers have voiced their concern about the budget management of the VA's IT modernization initiative  — one that has been delayed three times over concerns about the distress it has caused staff and patients at VA hospitals.

  3. The VA needs to update its IT system to support Cerner's EHR program, according to the report. Desktop and laptop computers need to be replaced every four years, according to VA policy. Medical devices would also need updates, such as patient monitors so that reliable data is captured for the EHR. Wi-Fi upgrades alone are expected to cost $362 million.

  4. Previous IT upgrade estimates were unreliable because they were not well-documented. Leaders from the Office of Electronic Health Records Modernization prioritized its contract with Cerner instead of the development of cost estimates, the report said.

  5. The Department of Veterans Affairs has wrapped up a three-month EHR modernization strategic review of its Cerner rollout. On June 30, VA Secretary Denis McDonough said it will take another two weeks to determine the changes the modernization program needs to make based on the recommendations in the review. It is unclear how the inspector general's findings will play a part in the VA's changes to its modernization.

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