House bill seeks to hold VA accountable as it moves to Cerner EHR

A House committee on Friday introduced bipartisan legislation to help ensure that the Department of Veterans Affairs is held accountable as it pursues plans to replace its legacy electronic health record system with a commercial off-the-shelf EHR from Cerner.

“VA is currently in the final stages of its negotiations with Cerner for one of the largest contracts in VA’s history,” said Phil Roe, MD (R-Tenn.), chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “The transition to a new electronic records system will impact nearly every aspect of veterans’ healthcare, and congressional oversight is critical to ensure this effort is carried out responsibly and successfully.”

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The east front of the Capitol building stands in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, Jan. 3, 2011. President Barack Obama and Democrats are preparing to confront a strengthened Republican opposition to tax, spending and immigration priorities when the 112th session of Congress convenes this week after Democrats lost control of the House during midterm elections. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

The Veterans’ Electronic Health Record Modernization Oversight Act of 2017 directs VA to provide Congress with the project’s key planning and implementation documents, as well as copies of the contracts to indicate the effort’s progress and how the money is being spent. In addition, the bill requires the agency to notify Congress in the event of any significant cost increase, schedule delay, loss of veteran health data or breach of privacy.

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In June, VA announced that it plans to replace its decades-old legacy Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture (VistA) with Cerner’s Millennium EHR, the same platform that the Department of Defense is currently implementing as part of Military Health System (MHS) Genesis.

Lawmakers have called for “seamless interoperability” between the VA and DoD EHR systems, which they believe will be aided by both agencies leveraging the Millennium platform.

“For far too long, service members transitioning from DoD to VA healthcare have been unable to take their electronic health records with them,” said Ranking Member Tim Walz (D-Minn.). “That is why I applauded Secretary Shulkin when he announced that VA would soon adopt the same electronic health record as DoD. While Secretary Shulkin’s announcement was a welcome one, it is now incredibly important to make sure the modernization process is as seamless as possible.”

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