VA spent $1.1B over 6 years on an EHR it's trying to replace

Between fiscal years 2011 and 2016, the Department of Veterans Affairs funneled more than $1.1 billion to improve an EHR it is now seeking to replace, according to a Government Accountability Office report released Dec. 7.

The audit reviewed the VA's spending over the six-year period on two of its modernization projects: its integrated EHR, or the VA's attempt to build an EHR in conjunction with the Department of Defense for enhanced interoperability, and its VistA Evolution. The report revealed the agency paid 138 contractors $224 million and $880 million, respectively, for the modernization efforts during that time, and now the agency is looking to begin another EHR overhaul — this time to private EHR vendor, Cerner.

Of the $1.1 billion paid on the two projects, VA devoted $741 million to just 15 contractors. Here are the top five awards given to contractors for the iEHR and VistA Evolution projects between 2011 and 2016.

1. ASM Research ($162.6 million)

2. Systems Made Simple ($92 million)

3. HP Enterprise Services ($81.9 million)

4. Harris Corp. ($73.3 million)

5. Technatomy Corp. ($65 million)

The GAO report comes as the VA works out the kinks in its contract with Cerner, a deal estimated to cost $10 billion and take nearly 10 years to phase out the department's legacy system. Cerner was one of the top 15 contractors the VA paid during that 2011 to 2016 timeframe, during which the VA gave Cerner $13.4 million for help with its two projects.

The iEHR and VistA Evolution are only two parts of VA's challenge-ridden IT modernization efforts. In 2001, the agency began the first of its VistA improvement attempts — HealtheVet. The program "was scheduled to be fully implemented by 2018 at a total estimated development and deployment cost of about $11 billion," the report reads. But, the department ultimately terminated HealtheVet in 2010.

Now, lawmakers are concerned that the VA will experience similar challenges in its Cerner transition.

"Let's be honest. There is not a track record of successes here," Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas, said during an Oversight and Government Reform IT Subcommittee hearing Dec. 7 and reported in FedScoop. "Given the amount of money spent VistA modernization and the lack of return on that investment, we have concerns about this rollout. It needs to succeed. The whole country is rooting for the VA to succeed."

Click here to read the full GAO report.

Click here for a timeline of the VA's contracting efforts with Cerner.

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