Busy Week for Veterans Affairs Health IT on Capitol Hill

On Monday, the House Appropriations Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Subcommittee approved an FY18 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill. The $88.8 billion dollar package, which passed by voice vote, includes $65 million in funds for the VA’s proposed EHR upgrade. The bill language stipulates that the VA must provide Congress with a detailed overview of its solicitation of Cerner to implement its new EHR system, how the new system would be interoperable with the DoD and the private sector systems, a strategic plan for implantation of the new EHR, and how it would maintain the existing VistA system during implantation.

On Wednesday, the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee held a hearing on the “Fiscal Year 2018 Budget for Veterans’ Programs and Fiscal Year 2019 Advance Appropriations Requests.” The hearing featured Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Dr. David J. Shulkin. In his opening statement, Secretary Shulkin stated that the VA will, at this stage, continue to modernize and maintain the existing VistA EHR system, despite the announcement of VA’s intention to adopt the DoD’s EHR – Cerner’s MHS Genesis. During the hearing, Shulkin received bipartisan praise for the decision to switch to Cerner, but this was not without skepticism from certain members of the committee concerning the cost of the program, which is expected to surpass the $4.3 billion dollars the DoD is anticipated to spend during its implementation of MHS Genesis.