The Department of Veterans Affairs’ top IT official has resigned from his post, raising more uncertainty about the fate of a long-delayed deal with Cerner to modernize the system’s EHR.
VA Acting CIO Scott Blackburn announced his resignation on Twitter Tuesday, calling it a "bittersweet moment." He posted a letter calling his nearly four-year career with the agency “the honor of my professional life,” but offered no reason for his resignation.
“My effort has always been about better caring for Veterans regardless of Presidential administration, Republican or Democrat—and I have been honored to serve alongside both in a bipartisan way,” he wrote.
This is a bittersweet moment in my career. Today I officially resigned my position at @DeptVetAffairs. It has been the honor of my life. Too many people to thank. Will continue to advocate for #Veterans in other ways. Next stop - time off for a few months :) pic.twitter.com/qN9HWWocjn— Scott Blackburn (@Srblackb) April 17, 2018
After he was appointed as interim CIO in October, succeeding longtime CIO Rob Thomas who retired after 35 years, Blackburn took over as one of the leading officials behind the system’s EHR modernization efforts that involved an estimated $16 billion deal with Cerner. Prior to his appointment, Blackburn served as the interim deputy secretary for eight months.
Blackburn categorized the overhaul as “the largest implementation of a healthcare system EHR ever,” adding that the VA planned to lean on the off-the-shelf system while “absolutely minimizing the customization.”
His departure adds more uncertainty to the Cerner contract that was initially slated to be signed in November. Concerns about interoperability delayed the contract, and VA Secretary David Shulkin’s ouster raised new questions about when, or if, the deal would be finalized. After firing Shulkin, President Donald Trump named White House doctor Ronny Jackson as his replacement.
The VA did not respond to a request for comment and it remains unclear who will replace Blackburn as acting CIO.
Blackburn made no mention of the deal in his resignation letter but said he would remain “both VA’s biggest cheerleader and critic from afar."
“Veterans deserve the best from VA—and there remains a lot of hard work to get where the VA needs to be,” he wrote.