VA seeking $782M to begin EHR overhaul, guarantees 100% interoperability with DOD

Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, MD, asked the House Appropriations Committee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies for $782 million for its Cerner transition in a hearing Wednesday, according to Politico Morning eHealth newsletter.

A chunk of the money — $690 million — would come from the fiscal 2018 budget for medical care, while the rest — $92 million — would come from IT projects. The funds would enable VA to begin work in the Pacific Northwest, where the Department of Defense has already rolled out part of its Cerner implementation. According to Dr. Shulkin, if VA doesn't spend this money now, the total cost of the project could increase 5 to 10 percent and its 10-year timeline goal could be thrown off.

"There's no doubt that we are being aggressive with this," Dr. Shulkin said, according to FedScoop. "But we are also doing business differently," pointing to the agency's move away from in-house software development. "Now that doesn't assure that we're going to be 100 percent successful with this, but I think the right thing to do in this situation is to act with urgency and to be aggressive and to establish sharp timelines."

VA has yet to enter a contract with Cerner, its EHR vendor of choice, but sources close to the agency estimate the project could cost upwards of $10 billion. Politico added that Leidos may also be in on the contract discussions, Cerner President Zane Burke mentioned on a call Tuesday from Tacoma, Wash.-based Madigan Army Hospital.

However, by the end of the agency's new EHR's deployment, there will be "100 percent" interoperability with the DoD, Dr. Shulkin said at the hearing, according to FedScoop.

Earlier this week, VA tapped CSRA, a Falls Church, Va.-based IT company, to digitize more than 7 million veterans' health records over the course of 36 months, awarding it a $158 million contract.

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