January 30, 2018, the “VA Health IT Modernization” (GAO-18-208) report was submitted https://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-18-208 by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) https://gao.gov to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform’s Subcommittee on Information Technology https://oversight.house.gov.
The GAO’s report on the VA presents a historical perspective on prior contracts and efforts to modernize technically, but the report also provides an update on plans for the new initiative referred to as the “Electronic Health Record Modernization” (EHRM) system which seeks to achieve a modernized health system working along with the Department of Defense.
In 2017, the VA Secretary announced a significant shift in the department’s approach to modernizing VistA. Rather than continuing to use VistA, the VA plans to acquire the same EHR system that DOD is implementing,
The VA’s Executive Director for the EHRM system reports that the VA is going to deploy the new system incrementally in their medical facilities. Each facility is expected to continue to use VistA until the new system has been deployed at that location. VA expects that the new system will be implemented at all VA medical facilities within seven to eight years after the first deployment.
In June 2017, the VA Secretary signed a document authorizing the VA to issue a solicitation directly to the Cerner Corporation https://www.cerner.com for the EHRM system According to the Secretary, the VA expects to award a contract to Cerner in early 2018 which will mean that deployment of the new system should begin 18 months after the contract has been signed.
Presently, the VA is developing plans to guide the implementation of the new EHRM program. For example, the VA has developed a preliminary description of the organizations that are going to be responsible for governing the EHRM program.
The Executive Director for the EHRM system will report directly to the VA.s Deputy Secretary. In addition, the department has developed a preliminary timeline for deploying the new EHR system to VA’s medical facilities along with a 90-day schedule that depicts key program activities. Also, the department has begun documenting the EHRM program risks.
The department also intends to complete a full suite of planning and acquisition management documents to guide the program, including a life cycle cost estimate and an integrated master schedule to establish key milestones over the life of the project. So far, the VA has awarded program management contracts to support the plans to MITRE Corporation and Booz Allen Hamilton.
The VA is beginning to staff an organizational structure for the modernization initiative with the Under Secretary of Health and the Assistant Secretary for Information and Technology designated as executive sponsors. Also a Chief Technology Officer from the Office of Information and Technology (Ol&T) https://www.oit.va.gov and the Chief Medical Officer from VHA https://www.va.gov/health will be reporting to the Executive Director as plans move forward.