VA Secretary: $782M needed to start transition to Cerner EHR

David Shulkin, MD, secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, asked a House committee to redirect $782 million of his agency’s budget to begin the switch from the VA’s legacy electronic health record system to a new Cerner platform.

This would require transferring $690 million from the VA’s fiscal year 2018 budget for medical care and $92 million marked for IT projects. Without permission from Congress to redirect these funds, Shulkin said the project’s costs would increase by 5 to 10 percent over the transition period. By starting sooner, it can work in tandem with the Cerner EHR implementation just beginning at the Department of Defense (DoD), where three sites in the Pacific Northwest have gone online with a MHS Genesis platform similar to what the VA plans on installing.

“We will achieve DoD interoperability,” Shulkin said to the House Appropriations Military Construction and VA Subcommittee. “I practice in the VA. I have to leave my system that I use to go into one across the country, so it’s not, even within the VA system, true, easy interoperability.”

Complicating his request for redirecting funds is the fact the Cerner contract hasn’t been signed yet. A lawsuit from rival EHR provider CliniComp was one of the factors blamed for the delay.

Lawmakers questioned Shulkin as to why there’s been a lack of details on the contract, considering Cerner was awarded the VA deal without going through a competitive bidding process.

“We need answers about the true costs and what can be salvaged from what’s already been spent,” said Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-New Jersey.

According to Federal News Radio, more details about the costs were discussed in a closed session about the public hearing.