Lawmakers Present Bill to Monitor VA EHR Project
In early November, bipartisan legislation emerged from both the House and the Senate to keep close tabs on the VA’s Electronic Health Record (EHR) Modernization project.
The House bill was sponsored by Reps. Phil Roe (R-TN), Jack Bergman (R-MI), Tim Walz (D-MN) and Annie Kuster (D-NH) and the Senate companion legislation was sponsored by Senators Jon Tester and Richard Blumenthal. The Veterans’ Electronic Health Record Modernization Oversight Act of 2017 would require the VA to provide Congress with 15 specific IT program planning and management documents within thirty days of enactment, including an integrated master plan and master schedule; lifecycle cost estimates for labor, hardware and software; a cost baseline; and a risk management plan.
The bill also requires quarterly updates of the documents throughout the lifetime of the project implementation, copies of contract documents and immediate Congressional notification of any schedule slippages, budget overages, or data breaches.
VA Secretary Shulkin announced in June that VA would be adopting the same Cerner health records system as DOD with the intent of maximum interoperability and information sharing between the two agencies. The project is expected to take seven to eight years with cost estimates as high as $18 billion.
With billions of dollars at stake, as well as the wellbeing of millions of veterans, Congress seems determined to monitor VA’s implementation of the Cerner EHR and provide a heightened level of oversight.
Rep. Bergman said in a statement regarding the legislation, “It is well known that large IT modernization projects, particularly those in government, often encounter significant problems. It’s also no secret that VA has a poor track record of keeping Congress informed regarding its modernization efforts.” Sen. Blumenthal stated, “While this massive project will modernize VA’s record system and improve care for millions of veterans, steps must be taken to ensure transparency and accountability for both taxpayers and veterans who will benefit from this new system.”
The House version of the legislation has been referred to the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs.
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