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VA plans year-long, independent cost analysis for EHR program

par John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter | October 15, 2021
Health IT
The VA is conducting a year-long, independent cost estimate of its EHR modernization project
The Department of Veterans Affairs will begin later this month an independent cost estimate to determine how much it can expect to spend on its EHR modernization initiative.

The project has been in the works since 2018 as a replacement for the department’s current EHR system and is meant to provide faster and seamless access to care for veterans after they leave military service.

Helping to calculate actual EHR costs will be the Institute of Defense Analyses. Paul Brubker, the acting principal deputy assistant secretary for the Office of Information and Technology, told members of the House of Veterans Affairs Technology Modernization Subcommittee Thursday that the process would take a year, reported Federal News Network.

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“I find it concerning that three years into a $16 billion program the VA is unable to account for actual expenses related to the project,” said Rep. Frank Mrvan (D-Ind.), chairman of the technology modernization subcommittee, in response.

The VA appointed Cerner in 2018 to complete the project, with the two signing one of the largest IT contracts in the federal government, with a ceiling of $10 billion over 10 years. More than 20 partners were reported later that year to have signed on board to help with the project.

But questions in the last few months about the project’s funding have become a thorn in the VA’s side. A government report in May estimated that the VA may be short by as much as $2.6 billion for infrastructure upgrades to support the new system, including electrical work, cabling, and heating, ventilation and cooling. The department initially estimated the project to cost $10 billion but later changed this to $16 billion. The report, however, said this may not be enough, as the VA did not understand the actual needs of its facilities and failed to report infrastructure costs to Congress. Another in July reported an additional deficit of $2.5 billion for IT infrastructure such as system interfaces and end-user devices. Together, the two estimate that the VA may be short by as much as $5.1 billion, according to Nextgov.

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