VA: Dental practice software not suitable for EHR modernization

The Department of Veterans Affairs has decided not to use Henry Schein’s dental health IT solution as part of its Electronic Health Record Modernization initiative.

Last year, the VA awarded Cerner a $10 billion contract to replace the agency’s decades-old legacy EHR system. Soon after, Cerner created a VA EHR modernization team that included dental software vendor Henry Schein. However, now the agency has taken exception to Henry Schein’s involvement.

“When our dental council evaluated the Henry Schein product, they had concerns that it would not meet all of their needs,” Laura Kroupa, chief medical officer for the VA’s Office of Electronic Health Record Modernization (EHRM), told a House subcommittee last week.

The VA has established national councils—including one for dentistry—to represent each of the functional areas of the VA’s EHRM. These councils are responsible for reviewing and finalizing the design of nationally standardized clinical and business processes to be used for the new system.

Kroupa testified that after consulting with the Department of Defense, which she said uses Henry Schein’s Dentrix Enterprise product in conjunction with the military’s new Cerner EHR, the VA decided it “needed more time” to develop the required dental functionality for its own EHRM program.

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“Our best course of action for our initial operating capability was to have an interface to the current dental record manager that we’re using now, and then take some time to develop a better product for us to use,” Kroupa added.

A Cerner spokesman declined to comment and instead deferred to the VA on the matter. Henry Schein officials were not immediately available for comment. However, the company calls itself “the dental software leader whose Dentrix Enterprise solution represents the gold standard in system interoperability.”

The VA intends to create a single common EHR system with the Department of Defense by leveraging a shared Cerner Millennium platform that enables the VA’s and DoD’s patient data to reside in one system, eliminating the manual and electronic exchange and reconciliation of data between two separate systems. The VA is aligning the deployment of the VA’s Cerner system with DoD’s ongoing rollout of its own Millennium system—called MHS GENESIS.

Henry Schein is a subcontractor on the Leidos-led DoD contract for MHS GENESIS. Henry Schein’s Dentrix Enterprise, its dental practice management software, has been described as “best of breed” by DoD and is being implemented with the military’s new Cerner EHR.

The VA has been trying to leverage—as much as possible—investments made by DoD in MHS GENESIS. Last year, Cerner made Henry Schein a core partner on its VA EHR modernization team, which the health IT vendor announced was comprised of “industry leaders and innovators with extensive experience in large enterprise systems and commercial sectors.”

However, the VA does not believe that the Henry Schein product is up to snuff when it comes to meeting its own dental care requirements.

Ultimately, Cerner is meant to replace 130 clinical instances of VistA—the VA’s legacy EHR—supporting a broad range of healthcare functions including acute care, clinical decision support, dental care and emergency medicine across the VA. What dental software the VA ends up implementing remains to be seen.

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