DoD, VA pledge to better align plans to create single EHR

The Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs have pledged to align their agency’s respective plans to create a common Cerner electronic health record system.

Defense Secretary James Mattis and VA Secretary Robert Wilkie have signed a joint statement committing to the implementation of a “single, seamlessly integrated electronic health record that will accurately and efficiently share health data between our two agencies and ensure health record interoperability with our networks of supporting community healthcare providers.”

The pledge comes on the heels of criticism from Congress that while the VA’s planned EHR acquisition calls for aligning the deployment and implementation of its Cerner system with DoD’s ongoing rollout of its own system—called MHS GENESIS—the two agencies must do a better job of coordinating their activities to ensure interoperable systems.

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“The importance, magnitude, and overall financial investment of our EHR modernization efforts demand the alignment of plans, strategies, and structure across the two departments,” according to the joint statement signed by Mattis and Wilkie. “To this end, the DoD and VA will institute an optimal organizational design that prioritizes accountability and effectiveness, while continuing to advance unity, synergy, and efficiencies between our two departments.”

In an effort to better coordinate their activities, Mattis and Wilkie have committed to developing a “more efficient overall construct and plan of execution” that they say will include:

  • An accountability mechanism that facilitates coordinated decision making and oversight;
  • An organizational structure that supports the delivery of a single, seamlessly integrated EHR that maximizes commercial health record interoperability;
  • Optimally coordinated clinical and business workflows, operations, data management, and technology solutions; and
  • A detailed implementation timeline.

“The joint statement between DoD and VA represents tangible evidence of our commitment to change how we deliver veteran-focused, provider-friendly care,” said Wilkie. “The new EHR system will be interoperable with DoD, while also improving VA’s ability to collaborate and share information with community care providers. This will ease the burden on service members as they transition from military careers and will be supported by multiple medical providers throughout their lives.”

In May, the VA awarded Cerner a $10 billion EHR modernization contract—one of the largest IT contracts in the federal government—to replace the agency’s decades-old Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture. In 2015, DoD awarded a $4.3 billion contract to prime contractor Leidos to modernize the military’s EHR system with Cerner’s Millennium platform.

“We are committed to partnering with the VA to support the lifetime care of our service members, veterans and their families,” said Mattis. “This modern electronic health record will ensure those who serve our nation have quality healthcare as they transition from service member to veteran.”

The agencies are aligning the deployments of their respective Cerner systems. DoD’s MHS GENESIS has so far been deployed at four military sites in the Pacific Northwest. The VA’s initial operating capability sites are slated to begin this month, with an estimated completion date of March 2020.

“The EHR will give healthcare providers a full picture of patient medical history, driving better clinical outcomes,” added Wilkie. “It will also help us identify veterans proactively who are at higher risk for issues, such as opioid addiction and suicide, so healthcare providers can intervene earlier and save lives.”

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