Trump says VA’s EHR woes are finally fixed. Not quite

Donald Trump speaking
Trump says the VA's EHR problems are fixed, but the implementation process hasn't even begun.

To hear the President of the United States tell it, the Department of Veterans Affairs' frequently maligned EHR system has been fixed in just a few short weeks.

During a speech on Tuesday in Ohio, President Donald Trump praised the work of Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin in reforming the agency responsible for providing medical care to the nation’s veterans. He specifically underscored the efforts his administration has taken to improve the VA’s EHR system.

“Since my first day in office, we’ve taken one action after another to make sure that our veterans get the care they so richly deserve,” Trump said. “We’ve begun to process seamlessly transferring veterans’ medical records. Horrible situation. You couldn’t get your medical records. And now it's so easy and so good. And the system is fixed, finally, after all of these years.”

In reality, the process of resolving the issues with VistA, the VA’s homegrown EHR system, has barely begun. Last month, Shulkin made the much-anticipated decision to replace VistA with a commercial, off-the-shelf platform manufactured by Cerner—a move that lawmakers had been advocating for some time.  

RELATED: VA will move on from VistA, adopt Cerner EHR system to align with DOD

But, as the Associated Press points out, the VA hasn’t even finished negotiating a contract with Cerner. And although Shulkin plans to speed implementation by borrowing resources and manpower from the Department of Defense, which is currently rolling out an overhauled system, other VA administrators have indicated that entire implementation process could take up to 5-10 years, with the first two years devoted almost entirely to change management.

Even then, the process is likely to be onerous and full of potential pitfalls. Shulkin himself has acknowledged that although he has overseen EHR rollouts in large health systems before, the VA system—with its 168 medical centers—presents some unique challenges.