VA CIO: Plan for another 10 years of VistA

The Department of Veterans Affairs' legacy EHR — VistA — won't be going away anytime soon, even as the agency prepares its contract with Cerner, CIO Scott Blackburn said Tuesday at the AFCEA Health IT Day, according to FedScoop.

Though the VA plans to transition to the more modern Cerner over the next 10 years, the department will have to continue to support and invest in VistA. That's because the new system will roll out in stages, similar to how the Department of Defense approached its transition to Cerner's MHS Gensis. The DOD launched the new system at its first location in February 2017 and plans to implement more as time goes on.

"The Cerner implementation will take about a decade. If it's starting in the northwest quadrant of the country and moving east, those on the Eastern Seaboard are going to be using VistA for about 10 years [more] or so," Mr. Blackburn said.

That means those with the modern system will still need to support VistA in order to share veterans' records throughout the country.

Because the rollout will take so long, Mr. Blackburn said the agency will have to update VistA. "We're going to have to make some very strategic, targeted investments to maintain the state-of-the-art nature of VistA, things like scheduling systems, whatever that might be, to keep that going," he said.

Maintaining two large systems over the course of a decade is going to be a challenge, Mr. Blackburn said. But, as the VA begins its transition, it will take pointers from previous go-lives to help subsequent rollouts go more smoothly.

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