24 Companies Join VA’s Health Record Modernization Team

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Cerner Corp. announces a lengthy list of subcontractors for the multi-billion dollar project.

The vendor responsible for modernizing the Veterans Affairs Department’s electronic health record system recruited 24 more companies to assist with the massive overhaul.

Cerner Corp. on Wednesday announced it teamed up with a lengthy list of subcontractors as the multi-billion dollar overhaul of VA’s health record platform gets underway.

“[The VA project] is the largest health IT modernization effort in history and to succeed we knew we needed the most innovative companies in the private sector to join us,” Travis Dalton, president of Cerner Government Services, told Nextgov. “We chose partners to address areas specific to their expertise to supplement our staffing capabilities.”

The newly formed syndicate includes seven “core” partners—Leidos, Guidehouse, Accenture, Henry Schein Inc., AbleVets, MicroHealth and ProSource360—and 17 additional “premier” partners, many of which are veteran-owned, according to the announcement. Leidos announced it would participate in the contract back in July.

"Cerner has brought together some of this country's brightest industry leaders to transform veteran health care delivery," VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said in a statement. "This team will create a single longitudinal health record that can facilitate the efficient exchange of data among military care facilities, VA facilities and the thousands of civilian health care providers where current and former service members receive care."

The announcement comes as Cerner moves forward with the 10-year, $10 billion effort to put VA on the same health record system at the Pentagon. The project would ideally enable the two largest federal agencies to “seamlessly” share medical records on some 9 million veterans, but technical troubles and leadership changes have threatened to derail the effort before it gets off the ground.

The Pentagon temporarily halted the platform’s rollout after officials recently declared the system “neither operationally effective nor operationally suitable” after tests at three of its four pilot facilities. Department officials said they’ve since worked out some of the kinks in the system.

VA too faced a setback when both the director and chief medical officer of its electronic health record modernization office abruptly resigned.

Lawmakers, aiming to prevent the project from meeting the same fate as previous failed overhaul attempts, created a special House Veterans’ Affairs subcommittee to keep tabs on the VA’s progress. In its inaugural hearing, witnesses told lawmakers there needs to be increased accountability within both VA and the Pentagon or the project will likely fail.

Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Phil Roe, R-Tenn., told Nextgov he’s “pleased” Cerner has begun to assemble a team of subcontractors.

“It indicates VA’s EHR modernization program is moving from its preliminary phase into detailed planning,” he said. “The most impactful decisions that will determine the program’s prospects for success are beginning to be made, and the size of this team is a testament of the enormity of the work ahead."

Given the scale of the overhaul, both VA and Defense need to enlist all the industry “EHR talent and manpower” they can find, said Technology Modernization subcommittee Chairman Jim Banks, R-Ind.

“There is no doubt that the largest electronic health record transition in the country requires an all-hands-on-deck effort,” he said in an email to Nextgov.

Editor's Note: This article was updated with a comment from Cerner Corp.