Senate confirms James Gfrerer as VA CIO; will oversee EHR transition

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The U.S. Senate has confirmed the Trump administration’s nominee for the position of chief information officer at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

James Gfrerer will oversee the implementation of the VA’s IT systems. He served for more than two decades in the Marine Corps and was a Department of Defense detailee to the State Department, where he led interagency portfolios in counterterrorism and cybersecurity.

In particular, Gfrerer will be in charge of the enterprise-wide rollout of the Cerner Millennium platform, which is slated to replace the decades-old Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture (VistA).

Based on his military experience, Gfrerer told a Senate confirmation hearing in September that he has an understanding of the “intricacies of IT legacy systems and large-scale IT projects” to successfully execute the VA’s transition from VistA to the Cerner EHR. Gfrerer also worked as an executive director with Ernst & Young in the firm’s cybersecurity practice.

While the agency plans to implement the $10 billion Cerner system over 10 years, he told lawmakers in September that the deployment timeline for the EHR could be sped up.

Also See: VA CIO nominee says Cerner EHR could be rolled out sooner than 10 years

LaVerne Council, who left the VA in January 2017, was the agency’s last Senate-confirmed CIO. Acting CIO Scott Blackburn, who was overseeing the VA’s EHR modernization, abruptly resigned from the agency last April.

The VA intends to create a single common EHR system with the Department of Defense by leveraging a shared Cerner Millennium platform. The agency’s planned acquisition calls for aligning the deployment and implementation of the system with DoD’s ongoing rollout of its own system—called MHS GENESIS—to achieve efficiencies.

So far, MHS GENESIS has been deployed at four military sites in the Pacific Northwest. The VA’s initial operating capability sites have begun, with an estimated completion date of March 2020.

Last month, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie told a joint Senate-House hearing that the agency is “adopting the same electronic health record as DoD so there can be a seamless transfer of medical information for veterans leaving the service.”

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