Wednesday, 21 November, 2018

Trump tweets to veterans: 'Stay tuned!' ahead of VA newser

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Alfredo Watts | 06 June, 2017, 04:49

The Department of Veterans Affairs will turn to the private sector to overhaul its electronic health records, and is side-stepping the federal contracting process to do so, VA Secretary David Shulkin announced Monday.

Cerner was awarded a almost $5 billion contract in 2015 to revamp the DoD health records.

Shulkin said the decision "will ultimately result in all patient data residing in one common system and enable seamless care between the departments without the manual and electronic exchange and reconciliation of data between two separate systems".

He did not provide a cost estimate or time frame for implementation.

"The [determination of findings] notes that there is a public interest exception to the requirement for full and open competition, and determines that the VA may issue a solicitation directly to Cerner Corporation for the acquisition of the EHR system now being deployed by DOD, for deployment and transition across the VA enterprise in a manner that meets VA needs, and which will enable seamless healthcare to Veterans and qualified beneficiaries".

But there will be some differences.

Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., who had been a strong advocate of an off-the-shelf system, said in a statement that he was "encouraged by the announcement", adding that "VA's antiquated IT systems have stood between veterans and the care they deserve for far too long".

In doing so, Shulkin signed a "Determination and Findings" form that allows the VA to bypass its requirement for full and open competition from EHR vendors. Her work has appeared in Popular Mechanics, Quartz, Fast Company, and elsewhere.

Trump called it "one of the biggest wins" for veterans in "decades". It will bring the agencies closer to sharing veterans' health information in an effort to solve a problem that has plagued the two departments for decades. Shulkin said the issue of moving the records has been studied extensively, leading him to the conclusion its the best option. During remarks at a White House press conference last week, Shulkin said he would be making a decision on the fate of the VA's system "in the very near future".

The size and scope of VA's sole-source contract-likely in the billions of dollars-could entice protests from competing contractors.

Officials from the Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion, and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America similarly praised the move. "The hard part is actually getting it done". "At VA, we know where nearly all of our veteran patients is going to come from - from the DoD, and for this reason, Congress has been urging the VA and DoD for the last 17 years - from all the way back in 2000-to work more closely on EHR issues".

Government auditors have long pointed to the poor condition of the VA's IT system, and Shulkin made it clear earlier this year that he would be making a decision on revamping it by July - whether by upgrading it or going to a new commercial "off the shelf" product.

In the announcement, Shulkin stipulated VA "will not simply be adopting the identical EHR that DOD uses", but will be building a similar, integrated platform.