The VA doesn't yet know how much replacing its current electronic health record with a commercial product will cost, but President Donald Trump's proposed budget should fit the bill, at least for now, according to VA Secretary Dr. David Shulkin.
Shulkin told senators on Wednesday that the Veterans Affairs Department couldn't bake an exact cost for the new EHR system, to built by Cerner, into its budget requirements. Trump's proposed 2018 budget for the federal government includes $200 million to begin the VA's internal change management process, which should cover the initial implementation costs, Shulkin said.
"We need Congress to fund our modernization," he said. "I believe we have the dollars to start preparing for this project."
All in all, the VA would receive $186.5 billion in the proposed 2018 budget, including $82.1 billion in discretionary funding, the majority of which would go toward veterans' healthcare.
Shulkin repeatedly told the senators that he is satisfied with the proposed budget and that it will allow him to "build an integrated healthcare system."
"The president's budget allows us to meet the mission of the VA," he said. "I stand behind the president's budget."
In order to reach that goal, the VA must adjust how it handles community care and the Choice Program by modernizing and consolidating those accounts under the Veterans Affairs Community Care Program, which would replace the time and distance requirement for seeing an outside provider with a clinical consultation requirement.
Shulkin said more veterans than ever are accessing Choice, and the VA hopes to work with Congress to replace the expiring program with the Veterans Affairs Community Care Program, which he called "more effective."