Senate poised to make firing VA employees easier

Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin makes an announcement at the Department of Veterans Affairs in Washington Monday

The U.S. Veterans Affairs Department has awarded Kansas City-based Cerner Corp. a contract to create its electronic health record system.

Shulkin sought to assure VA practitioners by noting that the VA "has unique needs" different from DOD's, and that "VA will not simply be adopting the identical [health record] that DOD uses, but we intend to be on a similar Cerner platform".

Veterans Affairs has chose to contract directly with Cerner Corp.to replace the agency's VistA system with the same electronic health record software that the Defense Department is installing.

Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin makes an announcement at the Department of Veterans Affairs in Washington, Monday, June 5, 2017.

The secretary said the VA will be moving away from its "internal product to an off-the-shelf commercial product".

Baker was CIO at VA when the Obama administration floated a plan to have DOD and VA collaborate on acquiring a commercial electronic health record.

"I can count no fewer than 7 Blue Ribbon Commissions, and a large number of congressional hearings that have called for VA to modernise its approach to IT".

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Separately, President Donald Trump championed taking quick action.

David Norley, communications director for the Defense Healthcare Management Systems, said that Cerner - the health information technology company operating the system - would be working on both DoD and VA adoption at the same time, aided by the same executives that helped the current stand-up of the system, without impacting the rollout. "Because of the urgency and the critical nature of this decision, I have decided that there is a public interest exception to the requirement for full and open competition in this technology acquisition".

In addition to key executives from the Pentagon who helped stand up MHS GENESIS now working with the VA, White House leadership in the Office of American Innovation also supported Shulkin and the VA in this move, as President Trump tasked it do at its inception.

"From the outset that when the president selected me to be secretary, he made clear to me that he expected us to act with faster decisions, to act like business, and to really make sure that we are really doing the right thing to change veterans' health care". These customers are the top health systems in America and we stand with them, committed and eager to ensure veterans get the very best medical care regardless of where they receive it.

He added: "We have consulted with Chief Information Officers from around the country, and I've met personally with CEO's from leading health systems to get their own thoughts on the best next-generation EHR for VA".

He said Monday that the new IT system would be used to schedule VA medical appointments, offering opportunities for improvement after the 2014 scandal involving long waits at the Phoenix VA medical center.

In his announcement, Skulkin made no reference to the dollar value of the contract with Cerner. This is an exciting new phase for VA, DOD, and for the country. VA provides health care services to 27 million veterans.

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