The Department of Veterans Affairs’ VistA clinical information system will undergo a major update during the next three years under a $162 million contract awarded to ASM Research, a unit of Accenture Federal Services.

Jim Traficant, president of ASM Research, calls the task a “once in a generation modernization” that will position the VA to work better with the Department of Defense as DOD seeks to replace its core electronic health records system.

VistA’s technology, while still working well, is old and expensive to maintain, Traficant tells Health Data Management. Under the new contract, various functions of the EHR will be broken into modular components to take advantage of newer innovations. Currently, one component of VistA cannot be updated or otherwise changed without affecting other components. Decoupling components or functions into separate modules will make it easier to maintain and update specific parts of VistA without the changes touching other parts.

The contract also calls for implementing portals to give secure, role-based access to clinicians, managers, supporting staff and researchers to capture and disclose clinical data. Enhanced security protections that ASM Research is not presently disclosing also are in the works, along with enabling better data sharing across the enterprise.

The contract, which focuses on clinical applications, does not include work to improve the VA’s much-maligned patient appointment scheduling system.

VistA has been customized considerably over the years by region and individual hospitals and as part of the new contract, how data is captured, managed and presented will become more centralized, Traficant says. Consequently, there is an expectation of more standardization with richer tool sets and more uniform presentation of data.

Clinical analytics also will play a large role in the VistA update. Accenture has world-class expertise in health data integration, Traficant says, and will release data from silos and bring it to an advanced standards-based clinical analytics platform.

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