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Investment Needed in Health IT Infrastructure for VA EHR Program

Aging healthcare IT infrastructure at VA facilities requires more investment in preparation for deployment of new VA EHR platform, VA General Counsel and Acting Deputy Secretary James Byrne told a Senate panel on Tuesday.

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Source: Getty Images

By Fred Donovan

- Aging healthcare IT infrastructure at VA facilities requires more investment in preparation for deployment of new VA EHR platform, VA General Counsel and Acting Deputy Secretary James Byrne told a Senate panel on Tuesday.

After reviewing the final Current State of Review in preparation for deployment of the Cerner EHR platform, the VA determined that additional investment will be needed to upgrade some healthcare IT infrastructure.

At the same time, the review found IT infrastructure areas that are in “better condition than initially forecasted,” Byrne’s added in written testimony submitted to the Senate Appropriations Committee’s subcommittee on military construction, veterans’ affairs and related agencies.

“There were not unexpected major needs or significant deviations from the current projected spend plan,” he noted.

In the fiscal year 2019 budget, the VA is spending $412 million on infrastructure readiness, including end user devices, testing activities, and interfaces; $575 million on the EHR contract subaccount used for enterprise integration task orders, technology acquisition center fees, site assessments, and change management; and $120 on contract support staff, pay and benefits, travel and administrative expenses.

The VA is implementing a $10 billion EHR modernization program, which has been put on an accelerated timeline.

As part of the review, VA and Cerner staff observed current state workflows, identified areas that will affect value achievement and present risk to the project, identified benefits from software being deployed, and identified the scope of times that needed to be address.

Byrne said it will take “several years” to implement the VA’s new EHR platform. “The new EHR solution will be designed to accommodate various aspects of health care delivery that are unique to Veterans and VA, while bringing industry best practices to improve VA care for Veterans and their families,” he added.

During the transition, VA will continue to use the legacy Veterans Information System and Technology Architecture (VistA) EHR and related clinical systems until all Vista EHR modules are replaced by the Cerner platform, he related.

The EHR modernization program “will enable VA to provide the high-quality care and benefits that our Nation’s Veterans deserve. VA will continue to keep Congress informed of milestones as they occur,” Byrne concluded.

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