Cerner is VA’s most likely EHR vendor

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If the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) decides to ditch its in-house electronic health record (EHR) system for a commercial product, Cerner would be the best vendor candidate, according to a report from Black Book.

All indications are the VA will ditch its Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture (VistA), as new VA Secretary Peter Shulkin  supports such a move and it’s been recommended by the Government Accountability Office.

“VistA was a true pioneer in the birth of EHRs more than 30 years ago,“ Doug Brown, managing partner of Black Book Research, said in a statement. “In fact, much of the architecture of today’s commercial EHRs was based upon VistA’s open-source technology, which is used around the world.”

Cerner was already a prime contender for that business, since it has an EHR contract with the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD).

The Black Book report says Cerner has a leg up in this competition for other reasons. Using results from “over 30,000 inpatient and ambulatory EHR end users and clinical decision support end users” from the first quarter of this year, Black Book examined 24 key performance indicators on five vendors—Cerner, Allscripts, athenahealth, Epic and Meditech—and how they would deliver on promises made by President Donald Trump’s VA policy:

·         Improve veterans’ health access, satisfaction, veteran engagement and services delivery;

·         Solve opiate crisis;

·         Innovate government agencies; and

·         Improve government business processes and fiscal performance.

Out of a possible score of 10, Cerner came out on top with a mean score of 9.14, followed by Allscripts (8.91), Epic (8.17), athenahealth (7.89) and Meditech (7.66).

The second Trump initiative—‘solving the opiate crisis’—is where Cerner especially excelled.

“Cerner outperformed intechnology functionalities that support the healthcare delivery sector’s role in combating the opiate crisis, scoring highest in drug surveillance tools and pharmaceutical prescription record tracking, behavioral health and addiction EHR capabilities,” the Black Book press release said.

The report said the weakest spot for all five vendors was the fourth initiative: to improve government business processes and fiscal performance. Cerner, however, scored highest in KPIs related to this initiative, like IT outsourcing and privatization capabilities, hosting, tech support, and interoperability.

These results don’t mean Cerner is a lock to win the VA contract. Though interoperability with the DOD’s EHR will be essential, especially after $564 million was spent on an abandoned effort to merge the two departments’ system, VA officials have said full interoperability can be achieved through HL7 standards no matter what vendor they select.

“We wouldn’t have to be on the exact same commercial EHR, and we could have that interoperability,” said Rob Thomas, the department’s acting assistant secretary for information and technology.