The Veterans Affairs Department has renegotiated its agreement with Oracle Cerner to hold the electronic health record company more accountable, the VA said on Thursday.
The new contract has been restructured from a single, five-year term to five, individual one-year terms, said Dr. Neil Evans, acting director of the VA's Electronic Health Record Modernization Integration Office, in an email. Evans said the new agreement “dramatically increases VA’s ability to hold Oracle Cerner accountable across a variety of key areas.”
The contract includes performance metrics and expectations for Oracle Cerner around reducing system outages, responding to clinician requests, sharing patient data with private sector hospitals and interfacing the EHR with the VA's website, mobile app and other applications. Overall, there are 28 metrics included in the contract, the VA said.
With the one-year terms, Evans said the VA will have an opportunity to review the vendor's progress and potentially renegotiate again in a year. He said the system has not yet delivered for veterans or VA clinicians.
Before it was bought by Oracle for $28.4 billion in June 2022, Kansas City-based Cerner won the $10 billion VA EHR modernization contract in May 2018. The original contract had a base of five years with a five-year option.
The project has had its fair share of challenges. On April 7, the VA announced it would pause implementing Oracle Cerner’s EHR at its Saginaw Health Care System, an 81-bed skilled nursing and rehabilitation community living center in Saginaw, Michigan. The VA said the system was not ready for the deployment. On April 21, the VA paused future deployments of the EHR at all VA medical centers to address issues at the five sites using the software.
The rollout of the EHR was also delayed in November 2022 because of technical and operational issues as well as twice in 2020. In November 2021, a government watchdog flagged issues with Cerner's scheduling platform and issued a separate report in July 2022 linking the system to six critical harm incidents at VA hospitals.
Oracle Cerner declined to make an executive available for interview but provided a brief statement saying the new agreement reflected the company's commitment to veterans' healthcare.