VA CIO nominee would prioritize EHR modernization, cybersecurity

President Donald Trump's nominee for the Department of Veterans Affairs CIO, James Paul Gfrerer, testified before the Senate VA committee Sept. 5.

If confirmed, Mr. Gfrerer would be the first permanent CIO at the VA since the start of the Trump administration.

During the hearing Mr. Gfrerer said EHR modernization and cybersecurity were two of his top priorities. Mr. Gfrerer comes to the VA from Ernst & Young, where he worked in the professional services firm's risk and security practice.

Specifically, Mr. Gfrerer wants to address cybersecurity vulnerabilities at the VA, which have landed the agency on the Office of Inspector General's high-risk list for the last three years.

"I've read the OIG report on material weakness. It's a sustained pattern of unpreparedness," Mr. Gfrerer, a former Marine, told the committee. "As someone who has their personal health information in the VA system, and even if it was Lance Corporal Gfrerer, I would be pretty hot under the collar if there were continued material weaknesses and insecurity."

Mr. Gfrerer also said he would maintain the VA's legacy EHR, VistA, throughout the agency's transition to Cerner. The Cerner project is expected to take 10 years, and would start at pilot sites in the Pacific Northwest in 2020.

Some senators expressed concern that the VA may face similar problems as the Defense Department, which embarked on its Cerner project in 2017.

However, the newly created Office of Electronic Health Record Modernization will help ensure the network infrastructure and other technology resources are adequate to support the EHR overhaul, Mr. Gfrerer said, adding that he plans to keep project officials accountable through a "scorecard" method that would monitor the project's progress.

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