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Cerner Touts Early Successes in DoD EHR Transition, but VA Deal Still in Limbo


Early returns from 4 Department of Defense facilities are out, but Veterans' Affairs officials had indicated they'd have a deal by the end of February.

interoperability, va cerner, cerner DoD, department of defense interoperability, VA ehr modernization, DoD EHR

One federal agency could be making progress on its electronic health records (EHR) overhaul, while another still hasn’t gotten started.

Healthcare technology giant Cerner released a report last week detailing progress made in its work with the Department of Defense’s (DoD) EHR system. MHS Genesis, which the vendor says is quite similar “at its core” to its leading commercial platform, has now been rolled out at 4 DoD facilities in Washington state.

The implementation began more than a year ago at Fairchild Air Force Base. According to Cerner, that site has already achieved Stage 6 on the HIMSS Analytics Electronic Medical Record Adoption Model (EMRAM), a standard that less than a quarter of outpatient facilities have reached.

“The designation puts Fairchild’s ability to support optimized patient care through efficient use of the EHR on par with levels obtained by leading commercial hospitals and clinics,” the report states.

Another of the first 4 facilities, Madigan Army Medical Center, reportedly reduced average length of stay for hospital patients with sepsis by 37% due to the system’s early recognition alert system. In all, the health centers cancelled over 2,600 potentially duplicative procedures and reported an 8% decrease per patient in time spent placing orders.

“These early successes prove we are on the right track,” the report says, adding that there have been expected adoption challenges congruent with such a massive transition. The program is currently undergoing an optimization phase to ensure that wider deployment is done thoughtfully and in a way that does not interrupt patient care.

The report was issued on the final day of February—the date by which Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) officials most recently indicated that they would have a finalized contract with Cerner. Such a deal has yet to materialize.

The VA decided to sign on with the EHR company to achieve interoperability with DoD, but finalization dates continue to come and go. Originally, Secretary David Shulkin, MD, said negotiations would conclude before the end of November 2017. That month, the agency pushed Congress to appropriate millions so it could begin its transition in the Pacific Northwest to coincide with the DoD pilot program. As the calendar turned to 2018, however, Shulkin mentioned that the arrangement was held up over, of all things, interoperability concerns.

There is money for the program in the President’s proposed 2019 budget—more than $1 billion, consistent with the annual costs that officials have projected. It’s unknown whether the mounting, unrelated scrutiny currently facing the VA Secretary has thrown a wrench in the arrangement. The project was an important element of Shulkin’s modernization plan: When it was announced nearly 9 months ago, he couched it in an overall desire to “get VA out of the software business.

The VA did not immediately return a request for comment for this story.

Related Coverage:

VA Secretary Says Agency Must Replace "130" Different EHR Systems

Budget Slates $1B for VA-Cerner Deal as Uncertainty Mounts

Coast Guard Questioned on Its (Lack of) EHR Practices

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