Not only is the decision a "cost-effective" step toward modernizing VA's electronic health record - now the Veterans Information Systems and Technology Architecture, or VistA -but it also makes it so the medical records between the department and the DOD will be interoperable.
Veterans Affairs has made a decision to contract directly with Cerner Corp.to replace the agency's VistA system with the same electronic health record software that the Defense Department is installing.
The company had already been working on the DoD's current system, MHS Genesis, which carried a price tag of $4.3 billion.
In 2014, the GAO said the decision of VA and the military to use separate systems "was not justified". Shulkin said he decided to make an exception to the rule for full and open competition, signing a "Determination and Findings" form to do so. Recordkeeping has been somewhat of a black eye on the Department, something critics have repeatedly attacked as outdated, inefficient, and costly, and to which some veterans have decried as a major obstacle to receiving much-needed medical care. It was their work there that Secretary Shulkin said pushed their decision into Cerner's favor.
The VA did not respond Monday to repeated messages seeking clarification on whether the Epic/Systems Made Simple contract would be affected by Shulkin's announcement, and Shulkin did not mention that contract.
"Without improved and consistently implemented national interoperability standards, VA and DoD will continue to face significant challenges if the Departments remain on two different systems", Shulkin said. "I think this will make a big difference for veterans everywhere".
"VA has unique needs and many of those are different from the Department of Defense", Shulkin said. I applaud President Trump and Secretary Shulkin for taking this important step to improve and streamline veterans' health care.
The implementation of the new system will "ultimately result in all patient data residing in one common system", according to the secretary.
The value of the contract is unknown - the details of the agreement will be worked out in coming weeks - but it's thought to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars. But that's no small task: As Shulkin said, ever-changing information sharing standards between the two departments and the separate chains of command, governance, funding and procurement schedules have made any effort to modernize holistically incredibly hard.
He promised a system that will not only be interoperable with DOD records but also easily transferable to private-sector hospitals and physicians, as VA officials work to expand outside partnerships. That liminal period, after active duty but "before you get enrolled either in VA healthcare or community healthcare", can be risky to vulnerable veterans. "No more complications. The records will now be able to follow the veteran when they leave service - meaning faster, better, and far better quality care", he said.