Cerner EHR implementation at VA to take '7 to 8 years'

David Shulkin, MD, secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), told a House committee the transition from its legacy electronic health record (EHR) to a new Cerner system will take seven to eight years.

Shulkin said to the House Committee on Veterans Affairs it would take 18 months after the contract with Cerner is finalized to implement it at a first VA site. The “seven to eight years” timeline would be for a full rollout through the VA system, including interoperability with the Cerner EHR being implemented at the Department of Defense (DoD).

When Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas, said he has “yet to see” a VA project that didn’t exceed its initial estimated costs or timeline, Shulkin responded by saying, “This is a new VA, congressman.”

At the time Cerner was announced as the VA’s choice for EHR vendor, Shulkin said the implementation wouldn’t be rushed, and promised VA clinicians would be consulted on the new platform while making interoperability with the DoD system and the VA’s academic partners a priority

The decision to award the EHR contract to Cerner, however, was sped up. Shulkin chose Cerner without going through a competitive bidding process by allowing a “public interest exception,” which he justified by saying a bidding war could’ve taken more than two years.

EHR vendor CliniComp sued the VA over the Cerner decision, arguing the urgency to award a contract was only based “on a lack of advance planning.” The suit was dismissed in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims on Oct. 20, but KCUR reported the company has appealed that decision.