(CNSNews.com) - Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin announced Monday that the VA will be switching to electronic health records and adopting the same electronic health records system as the Department of Defense.
“Having an electronic health record that can follow a veteran during the course of his health, and treatment is one of the most important things I believe you can do to ensure the safety and the health and well-being of a veteran, so that's why this is so important,” Shulkin said.
The secretary said the VA will be moving away from its “internal product to an off-the-shelf commercial product.”
“I told Congress recently that I was committed that VA would get out of the software development business; that I did not see a compelling reason why being in the software development business was good for veterans, and because of that, I made a decision to move away from our internal product to an off-the-shelf commercial product,” he said.
“As you may know, almost all of our veterans get to us from one place, and that's the Department of Defense,” Shulkin said. He was able to “trace back at least 17 years of congressional calls and commission reports” calling on the VA to modernize its system and also work closer with the DoD.
“But actually, to this date, the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs have gone separate ways. We each have separate systems, and each are supporting separate electronic systems, and while we've been able to advance interoperability at the cost of hundreds of millions of dollars to the taxpayers, today we still have separate systems that do not allow for the seamless transfer of information,” he said.
Shulkin said as of now, the VA and DOD are able to “reach each other’s records right now.”
“That's called interoperability, or at least that's our certification, but what you're not able to do is actually work together to plan a treatment, to be able to go back and forth between the Department of Defense and VA, and so we've not been able to obtain that to this point,” he said.
That’s why Shulkin decided that the VA will adopt the same electronic health record as the DoD so that they will have “a single system” known as “the MHS GENESIS system, which, at its core, is Cerner Millennium.”
The benefits of having a single system are that it will “allow all patient data to reside in a common system so you will have this seamless link between the departments without the manual or electronic exchange of information,” he said.
The DoD took about 26 months to implement its electronic medical records system back in 2014. “I will tell you, in government terms, that's actually a pretty efficient process. I don't think we can wait that long when it comes to the health of our veterans,” Shulkin said.
Shulkin said he’s not willing to put off the decision for the VA any longer.
“And so under my authority as the secretary of VA, I am acting to essentially do a direct acquisition of the EHR currently being deployed by the Department of Defense that will be across the entire VA enterprise. That's going to allow the seamless health care for veterans and the qualified beneficiaries,” he said.
“Once again, because of the health of our veterans, I’ve decided that we're going to go directly into the DOD process for the next generation electronic health record,” Shulkin said.