Price for VA EHR nears $16B
The Cerner electronic health record system the Department of Veterans Affairs plans to implement over 10 years was estimated to cost a total of $15.8 billion, according to VA data provided to Congress. The VA’s 10-year cost estimate for the entire EHR modernization program includes $10 billion for the Cerner contract (which was still awaiting a final decision), $4.6 billion for infrastructure improvements and $1.2 billion for contractor program management support services; the VA has already awarded the main contract in this category to Booz Allen Hamilton. Of the $15.8 billion, the agency says it plans to ask for $10 billion of new appropriations from Congress and to internally reprogram $5.8 billion over the 10-year system implementation period. But members of Congress started balking at the costs involved in replacing the agency’s decades-old Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture (VistA) with Cerner’s Millennium EHR platform. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), ranking member of the House Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Subcommittee, noted at a hearing that the VA is asking for $1.2 billion in its FY19 budget request “to continue the massive implementation, preparation, development, interface management, rollout and maintenance” of the new EHR. She added that proper oversight must be put in place “to guard against abuses and mismanagement, which can and do occur in projects of this magnitude.” In particular, Wasserman Schultz voiced concerns that the implementation of the Cerner system may result in increased, costly customization.