Cerner Corp. executives reassured lawmakers on Tuesday that it's on schedule to launch the Veterans Affairs Department's electronic health record system, but said it has hit snags due to lack of coordination with the Defense Department.
The first VA sites of care will launch the EHR next year as scheduled, but Travis Dalton, Cerner's president of government services, acknowledged there have been delays in designing the system. His team is meeting daily to make these decisions.
"It's a big project," he told the House Veterans' Affairs Committee's Technology Modernization Subcommittee on Tuesday. "We're getting into difficult decisions around referral management, processes, workflow."
Executives from Cerner, Leidos and Booz Allen Hamilton—the three main contractors leading the VA and the Defense Department's EHR rollouts—appeared at Tuesday's hearing to address concerns related to the EHR development process and the VA's go-live timeline.
The VA will implement the same EHR version as the Defense Department, which kicked off its EHR go-live with Cerner in 2017. Using the same system will simplify recordkeeping for military members who transition to the VA system. The plan has required ongoing co-development and collaboration between the two agencies.
Dalton said Cerner needs a single process for how all decisions are made between the two agencies, from deciding how information is displayed to physicians to deciding how to best assess cybersecurity posture.
"We do need that joint decisionmaking authority," Dalton said. "We are operating effectively, and we are getting things done, but there comes a point where you have to have that joint capability."
The Government Accountability Office made a similar recommendation in April. At the time Carol Harris, the GAO's director for IT acquisition management, said defining the scope of the DoD-VA Interagency Program Office was "the most important action" the VA could take to ensure a successful EHR go-live.
However, Rep. Susie Lee (D-Nev.) said the VA has yet to provide the subcommittee with details of a joint governance structure to oversee the EHR project with the Defense Department.
"After months of requesting information we have yet to receive anything of substance about a proposal to address the non-functioning Interagency Program Office," she said. "What we have heard is not promising. It sounds like it is the status quo with a new name."