VA Might Yet Move to Commercial EHR System

By Sandra Basu

While VA said last year that it would release VistA 4 in FY 2018 – as depicted in this graphic — that the system might not be the electronic health record it uses in the future, according to current information.

WASHINGTON — After years of working to modernize its electronic health record internally, a senior IT official indicated last month that a shift to a commercial EHR is the likely path forward for VA.

“It is going to be my goal and my charge that we go commercial to the greatest extent possible, because we have not had a great track record on developing software,” said Acting Assistant Secretary for Information and Technology and CIO Rob C. Thomas.

VA and DoD decided to use different EHRs back in 2013. At the time, VA said it would modernize VistA while DoD said it would buy a commercially-available system, which it rolled out at its first medical facility last month.

Last year, VA appeared to shift directions when officials said that, while it would release VistA 4 in fiscal year 2018, the system might not be the EHR that it uses in the future.

Thomas told lawmakers at a House committee hearing that VA completed a cost-benefit analysis of continued development of VistA as well as other EHR options, completed at the end of December of 2016.

While he said he was “confident” the agency was “going to go commercial,” he cautioned that he “cannot speak” for then-VA Secretary nominee David J. Shulkin, MD, who was awaiting confirmation at the time of the hearing.

“I’ve worked with him the past 18 months; he’s very decisive,” Thomas explained.

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Comments (5)

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  1. Bill McGuirt says:

    I agree with Mr. Powner. There are numerous deficiencies when trying to transition from the DOD system to the VA system. The VA takes care of the same patients that transition from the DOD. Why then would there be a system in place that does not make communication smoother with easier accessibility to information? As a reservist, I have encountered this problem. I practically need to have a hand delivered copy of all my medical records during any time I have been deployed.

  2. Eric P Cohen, MD says:

    The VA CPRS clinical computer system is by far better than any commercial EHR.

    Let’s keep what works well.

  3. Anissa Litwin says:

    I am a pharmacist at the VA. I’ve started working more closely with the veterans who bring us prescriptions from Choice program providers. I called one provider’s office the other day to request a prescription be faxed to my office for the veteran. The person from the Choice program provider’s office said they don’t even do faxes anymore and all they do are “e-prescribing” and she was extremely surprised that we didn’t accept prescriptions that way. I’m really hoping that whatever new system we get is also capable of interacting with the non-VA providers’ systems. We should be able to operate just like any other retail pharmacy in that regard by accepting electronic prescriptions from outside providers. And we should be able to work across VA systems to fill prescriptions from other VA’s. Right now that is also something that frustrates the veterans when they have to travel away from their home station.

  4. Rae Stoddard says:

    I am a pharmacist at the VA. I work with veterans frequently that have to travel to larger VA’s for specialized services. They will then return back to their main facility and want to refill prescriptions from the larger specialized provider/facility and do not understand why we can run the refill through for them. Our system is not set up to do this, we are only linked to look. Unlike outside retail pharmacies that linked together and can fill from town to another town or even another state. This can be a frustration for our veterans.

  5. Ashraf El-Meanawy says:

    The commercial EHR systems currently available are obscenely expensive and each has it’s major flaws. It has been shown that physician’s productivity dropped by up to 20% with EPIC care (even after they became proficient). It does not talk to any imaging package available an integration with labs system leaves a lot to be desired. I can give example for all. The current VA EHR system is not perfect but it is efficient and can be improved by hiring a team of programmers and physicians to have this as their full time job. Out academic affiliate spent more than 250 million on EPIC so far and it is not complete. the dollar bleeding will continue.

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