Kansas City-based Cerner wins VA contract

The Department of Veterans Affairs will adopt the same medical records system as the Department of Defense to ensure "seamless care", Secretary David Shulkin announced Monday.

Improving veteran care has been a top priority for Trump both on the campaign trail and as President.

Though the VA has been using in-house electronic record systems, Shulkin said that it was time to move to an off-the-shelf system.

"We have not agreed upon any pricing, but I can assure you that before we were to sign off on a contract, we are going to make sure that this is the best value for taxpayers", Shulkin said. "The [determination of findings] 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 says because all the VA's patients as former service members originate in the Pentagon system, the VA would be better served if it could "trade information seamlessly". There was no "full and open competition" for the contract, to which Shulkin said there was a "public interest exception" that allows them to award the contract to Cerner.

Shulkin did not announce a potential price tag for the move to a commercial electronic health records system, but said that a price tag of less than $4 billion would likely be "unrealistic".

Shulkin has worked to assure veterans groups that his efforts to rely on the private sector for expertise and some services will not mean a broader dismantling of VA, but instead will produce a more efficient and responsive agency.

The secretary is betting on bipartisan support from Congress but added that it's a risky process and said there are no guarantees for the success of the program.

But he said his goal is to make health records seamless as members of the military become veterans.

Speaking at the White House, Trump hailed the VA announcement, saying that in the past "it has taken not just days or weeks but many months for the records to follow the veteran".

Acknowledging "there is still much work to do", Trump said the announcement was "truly wonderful, really monumental reform". "The hard part is actually getting it done".

The VA will use the same system as the Defense Department and contract with the Kansas City, Mo. -based Cerner Corporation, Shulkin said.

The VA wants to ink the deal within six months, but Congress will have to approve the multi-billion dollar project separate from the fiscal year 2018 budget.

  • Zachary Reyes