VA and Cerner Seal the Deal

After almost a year of waiting, the EHR giant has finally announced a formal agreement with the nation's largest integrated health system.

Eleven months and 12 days after the Department of Veterans’ Affairs announced that it would move on from its legacy electronic health records (EHR) system and buy a solution from Cerner, the 2 organizations finally have a formal agreement.

The company broke the news with a 3-paragraph announcement this afternoon, which was accompanied by a blog post from Cerner CEO Brent Shafer. He wrote that the primary goal was enhanced interoperability between VA and other federal agencies.

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“Using technology that has been deployed successfully at Department of Defense (DoD) medical facilities and thousands of provider sites globally, Cerner plans to provide seamless care across the VA’s high-performing integrated network, including VA facilities, community providers and DoD facilities,” the company wrote.

The first part of that sentence might raise eyebrows: The DoD itself released a scalding report earlier this month about numerous problems that had arisen during its Cerner implementation. Officials wrote that, at this stage of the process, the system “does not demonstrate enough workable functionality to manage and document patient care.”

The VA contract had been delayed repeatedly as agency officials paused proceedings to reevaluate the solution’s interoperability potential on at least 1 occasion. The agency, currently headed by Acting Secretary (and longtime DoD employee) Robert Winkie, had indicated that it would make a final decision on the deal before Memorial Day.

David Shulkin, MD, was expected to announce a completed deal during a keynote speech in early March at the HIMSS conference in Las Vegas, Nevada. He did not, and he was fired from the VA Secretary role by President Trump 3 weeks later.

The delays had even thrown off the EHR provider’s quarterly revenue projections, but in a shareholder call earlier this month, executives from the company remained confident that the deal would get done.

The signing of the deal, which is valued at $10 billion, is only the beginning of the process. The implementation is expected to take a decade as the company and the agency work together to ease the new technology into each facility without interrupting care.

“The system is designed to provide veterans with consistently high-quality health care outcomes, no matter the location or provider,” according to the Cerner announcement.

“We are honored to work with the VA on this important program,” Shafer wrote in his blog post. “And we call on all our industry partners to join with us as we work to improve health care.”

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