The Announcement that David Shulkin Didn't Make at HIMSS

Ryan Black
MARCH 15, 2018
interoperability, va cerner, cerner DoD, department of defense interoperability, VA ehr modernization, DoD EHR

During a meeting of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs this morning, Representative Julia Brownley (D-CA) revealed a big story that was supposed to come out of last week’s HIMSS 2018 meeting, but ultimately didn’t.

“It is my understanding that the Secretary was supposed to appear at a Health Information Management and Systems Society conference in Las Vegas and he was going to publicly announce the award of the electronic health record management project to Cerner, but that didn’t occur,” Brownley said, before asking VA Executive in Charge Carolyn Clancy, MD, about the state of the agency’s long-anticipated deal.

Clancy acknowledged that VA Secretary David Shulkin, MD, had not made the announcement, but added that he had made several others which she thought would also be important—like the agency’s embrace of an application programming interface (API) to allow outside vendors and the public to design tools for agency.

“We are closing in on signing this contract, we have 1 more round of technical review. We have brought in some very credible and highly recognized experts from the private sector, and we are really focused on ‘Are we getting interoperability right?’” the VA official responded. “Not only within our own system, but with the Department of Defense and with partners in the community.”

Clancy added that Cerner would not charge the agency an additional fee for its new API integration plans, and said that she was “looking forward to celebrating with you when it’s all signed.”

Interoperability with the Department of Defense (DoD) is considered to be a vital outcome of the Cerner arrangement, and the driving force behind the vendor’s selection in the first place.

At the end of February, the company released a report touting early successes in 4 DoD facilities that had transitioned to MHS Genesis, the version of Cerner’s off-the-shelf Millennium EHR program that was custom-built for the military systems. Some reporting, however, tells a different story: A handful of doctors in those facilities, all located in Washington, told Politico about nightmare scenarios of a bungled rollout where efficiency had fallen, prescriptions were misrouted, and clinicians had even quit.

Those complaints echoed reports that came out earlier this year from just across the border in British Columbia’s Island Health System. Like the military, that government-run health system is attempting to transition to a custom Cerner platform. In a survey of over 600 front-line staff from those facilities, more than half reported that they thought the new technology decreased their productivity. A majority also reported that they believed the programs decreased the likelihood of safe patient outcomes.

"This is too big of an opportunity, too big of a contract, too important to our veterans and the country, not to get this right,” Shulkin said in his keynote last week at HIMSS—a keynote that did not break the news that was perhaps planned.  

Related Coverage:
Cerner Touts Early Successes in DoD EHR Transition, but VA Deal Still in Limbo
VA Secretary Says Agency Must Replace "130" Different EHR Systems
Budget Slates $1B for VA-Cerner Deal as Uncertainty Mounts

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