House Passes Bill on VA Cerner EHR Implementation Oversight

WASHINGTON – Congress will potentially have greater oversight of the VA Cerner EHR implementation, as the Veterans’ Electronic Health Record Modernization Oversight Act of 2017 (HR 4245) continues to move through the legislative process.

The House passed HR 4245 earlier this week with a voice vote, and was moved on to the Senate and referred to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

Under the legislation, Congress would need to receive certain documents on the implementation process, including but not limited to project timelines, costs, the health IT strategic architecture plan, and the transition plan for implementing updated architecture.

Additionally, agency officials would need to send Congress regularly quarterly updates. This would include the most current documents on the following areas:

  • Integrated Master Schedule.
  • Program Management Plan, including any written Program Management Review material developed for the Program Management Plan during the fiscal quarter covered by the submission
  • Each document described in subsection (a)(4)
  • Performance Baseline Report for the fiscal quarter covered by the submission or for the fiscal quarter ending the fiscal year prior to the submission
  • Budget Reconciliation Report.
  • Risk Management Plan and Risk Register.

House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Phil Roe, MD (R-TN), Ranking Member Tim Walz (D-MN), Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Committee Chairman Jack Bergman (R-MI), and Ranking Member Annie Kuster (D-NH) first introduced HR 4245 in October 2017.

“As chairman and a physician, I know firsthand the value an effective electronic health records system plays in providing patients with quality health care,” Roe said in an earlier statement. “The transition to the Cerner system aims to achieve seamless interoperability with the Department of Defense (DoD), which has been one of my priorities since coming to Congress, and will be one of the largest projects the department has been tasked with implementing.”

Walz added that it was incredibly important to ensure the EHR modernization process was as seamless as possible.

“Whether it is preventing disruptions in patient care, protecting the privacy of veterans, or ensuring American taxpayer dollars are invested responsibly and in a way that will improve healthcare delivery for veterans, this bill will ensure that Congress has the authority it needs to oversee the process and hold VA accountable every step of the way,” Walz said.

VA finalized the $10 billion Cerner EHR implementation contract last week. The new EHR system will mirror the Department of Defense’s (DoD’s) MHS GENESIS EHR system.

“I am pleased to announce we have signed a contract with Cerner today that will modernize the VA’s health care IT system and help provide seamless care to Veterans as they transition from military service to Veteran status, and when they choose to use community care,” Acting VA Secretary Robert Wilkie explained in a statement.

“And with a contract of that size, you can understand why former Secretary Shulkin and I took some extra time to do our due diligence and make sure the contract does what the President wanted.”

VA has already secured $782 million in funding for fiscal year 2018 to launch the implementation project.

The new Cerner system will help VA engage in seamless health data exchange with DoD and community providers, and will improve care coordination for VA providers. The entire care team can also have easier access in seeing the care being provided, and system capabilities will be added “as necessary to meet the special needs of Veterans, VA clinicians, and our community-care partners.”

“Signing this contract today is an enormous win for our nation’s Veterans,” Wilkie concluded. “It puts in place a modern IT system that will support the best possible health care for decades to come. That’s exactly what our nation’s heroes deserve.”

By Elizabeth Snell

EHR Intelligence

 

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