VA Has Spent Over $1 Billion on EHR Efforts

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has spent over $1.1 billion on 138 contractors between 2011 and 2016 in the quest to modernize its electronic health record (EHR) system, according to a report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

“The use of IT is crucial to helping VA effectively serve the nation’s veterans and, each year, the department spends billions of dollars on its information systems and assets,” stated the report. “However, VA has faced challenges spanning a number of critical initiatives related to modernizing its major systems.”

The path has been a tumultuous one for the VA, with recent efforts going from the Integrated EHR (iEHR) program to the VistA Evolution (VistA) program, and finally to the current efforts to simply replace all previous systems with an EHR from commercial vendor Cerner. While iEHR was an effort to replace separate VA and Department of Defense (DoD) systems with a joint system, VistA was a push to modernize the system in order to better accommodate all users, according to EHRIntelligence.

The decision to move to a Cerner system rendered previous modernization efforts moot. Cerner intends to build a system that will “mirror that of DoD to ensure interoperability,” according to EHRIntelligence,  with an upcoming official contract expected to total approximately $10 billion.

“According to VA’s Chief Technology Officer, Cerner is expected to provide integration, configuration, testing, deployment, hosting, organizational change management, training, sustainment, and licenses necessary to deploy the system in a manner that meets the department’s needs,” according to the report.

As of yet, the agency still has not completed its EHR modernization goals, including bridging the gap between the disparate systems in use at VA and DoD. The latest modernization effort is still in the early planning stage, and “VA’s completion and effective execution of plans will be essential to guiding this latest electronic health record modernization initiative to a successful outcome,” according to the report. To read the full report, click here.

Sarah Sheber is assistant editor/web editor at Journal of AHIMA.

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