The deployment of Veterans Affairs’ new electronic health record program has been on hold while the agency deals with COVID-19 but the agency wants to get Wichita’s infrastructure ready to roll.
The Veterans Affairs Department is getting ready to prepare the Robert J. Dole VA Medical Center in Wichita, Kansas, to receive its electronic health record overhaul and wants a service-disabled veteran-owned small business to do the needed infrastructure upgrades.
The VA is in the midst of a major EHR program update, with initial plans to begin rolling out the Cerner Millennial platform at medical centers in the Pacific Northwest earlier this year. Those plans were delayed—first in February due to incomplete capabilities that needed to be finished before users could be trained on the system, then again in April as the agency pivoted to focus resources on the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the future timeline for deploying the EHR system is unclear, on Monday the agency released a request for information asking for service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses capable of upgrading the Wichita facility.
Specifically, VA is looking for IT improvements including:
- Electrical panel upgrades, including normal and emergency power.
- Building management system interfaces.
- Assess need for new and potential upgrades to existing HVAC.
- Reconfiguration, expansion and renovation of existing space—demolition, new construction and finishes.
- Communication infrastructure—new data outlets, patch panels and upgrade to Cat 6A cable—in buildings as necessary.
- Physical security upgrades.
- Assess and upgrade fiber infrastructure backbone campus-wide within buildings and between buildings.
- Install diversified path to data center for wide area network.
- Hazardous material abatement during construction.
- Upgrades to IT closets in 24 buildings.
“The construction of this project will take place in a very busy occupied building and is to be completed to allow medical care functions to be maintained uninterrupted throughout construction,” the RFI states, requiring “carefully phased construction and coordination with VA.”
The contractor will also have to take into account several historic buildings on site and work with the Veteran Health Administration and the Kansas State Historic Preservation Organization “to mitigate and come to agreeable terms for historic buildings on the campus.” Those agreements will be posted to the SHPO website.
The contractor must also have a physical office within 450 miles of the medical center, located at 5500 E. Kellogg Ave, Wichita, Kansas.
Based on initial research, VA expects the infrastructure upgrades to cost between $10 million and $20 million.
The agency has learned some hard lessons about building in enough lead time for infrastructure—as have others deploying new EHR systems. In 2018, the Defense Department had to delay the rollout of its MHS GENESIS EHR platform—developed by Cerner as part of the Leidos Partnership for Defense Health—due in part to infrastructure issues.
VA leaders were aware of DOD’s setbacks when they developed a rollout strategy and schedule, initially requiring infrastructure improvements to be completed six months before deployment. The agency missed those deadlines, according to an April inspector general report.
According to the RFI, VA expects the design work to take approximately 258 days. Agency officials did not immediately respond to Nextgov’s questions about updated timetables for the EHR program, including for the Wichita facility.
Responses to the RFI are due by 4 p.m. July 28.