The House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs plans to create a new subcommittee focused on providing oversight of the VA’s major information technology projects, including the $10 billion electronic health record modernization contract awarded last month to Cerner to replace the agency’s legacy system.

The formation of the subcommittee will be discussed and considered by members of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs at a July 12 business meeting when additional details will be released, according to an announcement from Reps. Phil Roe, MD, (R-Tenn.) and Tim Walz (D-Minn.), the chairman and ranking member.

“Over the last year and a half, we’ve made great strides toward reforming VA, but the most critical work is still to come,” said Roe in a written statement. “As the department embarks on the country’s largest EHR overhaul, we must ensure veterans and taxpayers are protected during the transition.

“Having personally gone through a transition to a new health record system in private practice, I know how much potential there is for a project like this to be a huge and expensive disruption, and Congress has a responsibility to conduct rigorous oversight throughout every step of the process.”

Also See: VA finally pulls trigger and awards Cerner $10B EHR contract

Roe noted that the VA’s EHR modernization program will require close collaboration with the Department of Defense. The VA intends to create a single common EHR system with DoD using a shared Cerner Millennium platform.

In fact, the two agencies plan to align the deployment and implementation of their respective Cerner EHRs. So far, DoD’s Cerner system—called MHS GENESIS—has been installed at four military sites in the Pacific Northwest.

“I appreciate the Defense Health leadership’s willingness to share their expertise, and I look forward to bringing stakeholders together through this new subcommittee,” Roe added.

At the same time, Walz warned that “for too long, service members transitioning from the Department of Defense to VA healthcare have been unable to take their medical records with them.” As a result, he contends that “any effort to modernize VA’s EHR system ought to prioritize interoperability with DoD” and “hold VA accountable every step of the way and to ensure EHR modernization is implemented as seamlessly as possible.”

Lawmakers are closely monitoring the VA and DoD EHR modernization efforts, which have both come under fire lately.

Last month, five senators and six members of Congress sent a letter to VA Deputy Secretary Thomas Bowman expressing their concerns about the VA Office of Information Technology which has 553 staffing vacancies that they say are negatively impacting the agency’s EHR modernization efforts.

In addition, DoD’s director of operational test and evaluation released a report last month that found the military’s Cerner EHR system—installed at four initial sites in the Pacific Northwest—is “neither operationally effective nor operationally suitable.”

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