VA to modernize VistA EHR system

As part of an effort to modernize its Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture (VistA), the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs this week awarded a $162 million contract to Accenture Federal Services company ASM Research.

While an internal audit released June 9 did not cite the VA's electronic health record system as a cause of the wait-time scandal that has plagued the agency this year, it did refer to the scheduling component of VistA as "antiquated" and "problematic." To that end, the VA said it is looking to the private sector to create a scheduling tool that would work within the confines of VistA.

Jim Trafficant, president of ASM, told Health Data Management that VistA's technology was old and costly to maintain, but added that his company's efforts were not related to the scheduling system effort. Trafficant said that data management efforts for VistA will become more centralized and involve more use of clinical analytics.

The VA has been working to upgrade its EHR system, both on its own and jointly with the Department of Defense. The VA and the DoD initiative to integrate their EHRs was abandoned in 2013. The U.S. House of Representatives subsequently announced in May that it would withhold 75 percent of the VA's IT funding to upgrade its system until the two agencies address progress in making their EHR systems interoperable. It is expected that DoD will receive the same treatment.

The Government Accountability Office also recently chastised the VA and the Defense Department for their lack of progress in EHR collaboration.

Trafficant told Health Data Management that this latest announced effort will help the VA to work better with DoD in the latter's efforts to replace its EHR system. A trio of private-sector teams have already announced their intentions to bid for the DoD contract, including IBM and Epic; CSC, Allscripts and Hewlett-Packard; and Cerner, Leidos and Accenture.

To learn more:
- here's the Accenture announcement
- read the Health Data Management article