"I support Secretary Shulkin's decision to update and streamline the VA's health record keeping process, which should help medical professionals make more informed and timely decisions about their patients and improve the claims backlog".
Cerner already has a $4.3 billion contract with the Pentagon to overhaul the Defense Department's health records system.
Secretary Shulkin announced this morning that the VA will announce its plan to modernize its medical records to use the same system as the DoD, no more complications.
The D&F 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.
Shulkin said there is a public interest exception that necessitated fast-track approval. Recordkeeping has been somewhat of a black eye on the Department, something critics have repeatedly attacked as outdated, inefficient, and costly, and to which some veterans have decried as a major obstacle to receiving much-needed medical care.
For 17 years, Congress has called on VA to "not only modernize its system but work more closely with the Department of Defense", he said - but still each agency has forged ahead with different EHR systems. "I think this will make a big difference for veterans everywhere".
By making the decision to not put the EHR project out to bid and instead "do a direct acquisition of the EHR now being deployed by the Department of Defense", Shulkin said speed and efficiency were among his top motivations.
Addressing reporters at the White House daily briefing on Monday, Shulkin said that "having an electronic health record that can follow a veteran during the course of his treatment is one of the most important things you can do to ensure their safety, health and well-being". "For this reason, VA will be adopting the identical EHR that DOD uses, but - and this is an important but - with additional capabilities to maximize interoperability with our community partners".
"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.
In his announcement, Skulkin made no reference to the dollar value of the contract with Cerner. 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.
"You could be the best VA secretary of all time if you just solve this one problem", Rep. Thomas Rooney, R-Fla., told Shulkin during a hearing last month, referring to IT integration with the DOD.