Why the VA's EHR project may top $16B

U.S. Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., ranking member of the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies subcommittee of the House Committee on Appropriations, recently cited a $16 billion figure for the VA's EHR implementation project, a significant increase from previous estimates.

VA Secretary David Shulkin, MD, first announced the VA's intent to implement Cerner as its systemwide EHR during a news briefing in June 2017. Since then, Dr. Shulkin has delayed awarding the agency's contract. However, most recent estimates have placed the VA's contract with Cerner in the range of $10 billion.

During a March 15 appropriations hearing on President Donald Trump's proposed 2019 budget for the VA, Ms. Schultz noted Dr. Shulkin has requested $1.2 billion to continue the development and rollout of the VA's new EHR system.

"We need to be very careful to establish accountability measures through the whole implementation process," Ms. Schultz said in a statement to Dr. Shulkin. "It could fundamentally change the nation's use of electronic records. We are talking about a $16 billion project that will take a very long time, probably longer than many of us will be here to see it completed."

The discrepancy in estimates may be attributed to the breakdown of the 10-year modernization project, according to materials provided to congressional sources and reported by the Politico Morning eHealth newsletter. The breakdown reportedly comprises $10 billion for the Cerner contract, $4.6 billion for infrastructure improvements and $1.2 billion for program management support.

VA officials have told Congress they will seek $10 billion in new appropriations for the project, according to Politico. The agency plans to reprogram the remaining $5.8 billion over the decade-long period.

More articles on EHRs & interoperability:
Joe Biden to Trump administration: 4 'specific actions' to add to interoperability plan
Judy Faulkner says Epic won't challenge VA's 2017 decision to select Cerner: 'It's the customer's right to pick whatever they want'
16 hospitals, health systems seeking Allscripts, Cerner, Epic, Meditech talent

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