VA will move from VistA to a commercial EHR, secretary says

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has more important priorities than software development, VA Secretary David Shulkin, MD, told the House Committee on Veterans Affairs.
By Jessica Davis
03:30 PM
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VA VistA commercial EHR

VA Secretary David Shulkin, MD

VA Secretary David Shulkin, MD, told House Committee on Veterans Affairs' members on March 8 that the VA would be moving to a commercial electronic health record system.

"I've come to the conclusion that VA building its own software products and doing its own software development inside is not a good way to pursue this," said Shulkin. "We need to move toward commercially-tested products.

"If somebody could explain to me why veterans benefit from VA being a good software developer, then maybe I'd change my mind," he added. "But right now we should focus on the things veterans need us to focus on and work with companies who know how to do this better than we do." 

[Also: Allscripts, Cerner, Epic signal more open EHRs ahead]

The initial plan was a single, integrated EHR system for both the VA and the U.S. Department of Defense. Last year the groups announced the agencies would instead build separate systems – after two years of discussion and planning.

Since then, VA has been trying to modernize its self-developed VistA EHR system – and failing.

In fact, it's been the focus of numerous Congressional hearings, where members have expressed frustration with delays in the rollout and the struggles to develop an in-house, interoperable system. Congress has long pressured the VA to move into an off-the-shelf EHR.

Even the Government Accountability Office is fed up: It named VA healthcare and IT systems on its High-Risk List in 2017 for the second time. Shulkin and his team met with Comptroller General Gene Dodaro to discuss GAO recommendations.

During a separate House Committee on Veterans Affairs in February, Acting Assistant Secretary for Information and Technology and Acting CIO of the Office of Information and Technology for the VA Rob Thomas told members that the VA would be going with a commercial EHR – prior to Shulkin's confirmation as secretary.

"My goal, my charge, is that we go commercial to the greatest extent possible," said Thomas. "We don't have a great track record with developing software."

Committee Chairman Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tennessee, echoed those sentiments: "This is the third major attempt to modernize VistA in the past decade," he said. "Retaining or replacing VistA is a make-or-break decision for VA and must be made deliberatively and objectively. The VA must judge VistA Evolution realistically against concrete goals. If it falls short, moving the goalposts is unacceptable."

Twitter: @JessieFDavis
Email the writer: jessica.davis@himssmedia.com


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