Secretary Shulkin on Cerner integration: ‘This is a new VA’

David Shulkin
VA Secretary David Shulkin, M.D., expects it will take 7-8 years before the Cerner integration is complete.

The Department of Veterans Affairs is on its way to implementing a new EHR system, but it’s still years away from full-scale implementation and the anticipated interoperability perks that go along with that.  

During a House Committee on Veterans Affairs hearing on Tuesday, VA Secretary David Shulkin, M.D., told lawmakers he expects full implementation of the Cerner system to take 7-8 years. He added that it will take 18 months from the time the VA finalizes its contract with Cerner to implementation at the first VA site.

RELATED: Shulkin will use DOD tools, personnel to speed VA's transition to a new EHR system

But when Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas, questioned the timeline, commenting that he has yet to see a VA budget for time or cost not exceed, Shulkin quickly interjected.

“It usually goes beyond the budgeted time and beyond the budgeted costs,” O’Rourke said.

“This is a new VA, congressman,” Shulkin responded, grinning.

Shulkin’s estimate aligns with a broader estimate previously outlined by VA officials. In June, shortly after the Cerner decision was announced, VA Acting Undersecretary for Health Poonam Alaigh, M.D., told lawmakers the migration looks like “a 5-10 year project at this point.” But Shulkin’s quick rebuttal underscores his efforts to reform the agency, which has been frequently criticized for its past IT failures.

RELATED: Judge dismisses lawsuit challenging VA’s decision to implement Cerner; CliniComp vows to appeal

Shulkin added that the VA has submitted a 30-day notification to Congress outlining its intent to finalize the Cerner contract. But the agency is also still fighting off litigation from EHR vendor CliniComp, which is contesting Shulkin’s selection of Cerner without putting the project out to bid.

Last week, a federal judge dismissed CliniComp’s case, but the San Diego-based EHR vendor quickly filed an appeal on Monday along with an injunction request. CliniComp CEO Chris Haudenschild told FierceHealthcare the company “simply wants the chance to prove that it can do the job cheaper, faster and better.”

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