VA gearing up to deploy Cerner EHR at initial site in Pacific Northwest

Veterans Integrated Service Network 20 in the Pacific Northwest will serve as the first initial operating capability site to deploy and test the VA’s new Cerner electronic health record system.

The planned acquisition calls for aligning the deployment of the VA’s Cerner system with DoD’s ongoing rollout of its own system—called MHS GENESIS, which has been deployed at four military sites in the Pacific Northwest. The system implementation for the initial operating capability (IOC) sites is slated to begin October 1, with an estimated completion date of March 2020.

The VA intends to create a single common EHR system with the U.S. military by leveraging a shared Cerner Millennium platform.

“We are adopting the same electronic health record as DoD so there is a seamless transfer of medical information for veterans leaving the service,” VA Secretary Robert Wilkie told a Senate committee on Wednesday. “We will never have a veteran—as my father was—carrying around an 800-page paper record.”

According to Wilkie, the VA’s Office of Electronic Health Record Modernization (OEHRM) is working closely with DoD to ensure the two agencies are deploying an EHR that is fully interoperable.

“Engaging front-line staff and clinicians is a fundamental aspect in ensuring we meet the program’s goals, and we have begun work with the leadership teams in place in the Pacific Northwest,” Wilkie said in his testimony. “OEHRM has established clinical councils from the field that will develop national workflows and serve as change agents at the local level. The work at the IOC sites will help VA identify efficiencies to optimize the schedule, hone governance, refine configurations and standardize processes for future locations.”

VA sec nominee.jpg
Robert Wilkie, secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) nominee for U.S. President Donald Trump, speaks during a confirmation hearing before the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee on Capitol Hill, in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, June 27, 2018. The VA has lacked a permanent leader since David Shulkin was ousted as secretary in March and Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson withdrew in April, following allegations of improper behavior in his role as White House physician. Photographer: Al Drago/Bloomberg

Also See: DoD-VA EHR interoperability needs a single point of accountability

Wilkie added that the VA is working with DoD to “understand the challenges and obstacles they are encountering, adapt our approach to mitigate those issues and identify efficiencies.”

Last year’s initial deployment of MHS GENESIS at four military sites in the Pacific Northwest was found to be “neither operationally effective nor operationally suitable,” according to a report from DoD’s director of operational test and evaluation released in May.

“My understanding of what went on, on the DoD side, is that they were testing it for mistakes and they found them,” testified Wilkie. “I would rather find them there than down the line after we spent the $16 billion.”

According to the latest VA data provided to Congress, the total cost to implement the new EHR system over 10 years will be $15.8 billion—$10 billion for the Cerner contract, $4.6 billion for infrastructure improvements, as well as $1.2 billion for contractor program management support services.

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