VA Seeking Info on Commercial EHR

Published: August 17, 2016

Electronic Health RecordHealth ITVA

Earlier this month VA released an RFI seeking information on “Business Process Support for the Department of Veteran Affairs Transition from VistA (Veterans Information Systems and Technology Architecture) to a Commercial Off the Shelf (COTS) Electronic Heath Record (EHR).”

For those following VA IT modernization efforts, the RFI may not come as a surprise.  VA’s CIO LaVerne Council has been eluding to such a move for approximately six months.  During a House Appropriations Committee hearing in March, she announced that VA was reevaluating VistA as their long-term electronic health record (EHR) solution of choice.  She wants to establish a long-term plan for health records at VA before her departure in January 2017. 

When VA launched VistA in the 1970s, they were a leader in the development of EHR technology. VistA consists of nearly 180 applications for clinical, financial, administrative, and infrastructure functions in the VA and operates at 1200+ healthcare sites throughout the continental US, Alaska, Hawaii and the Philippines, according to the RFI.  But due to local customization over the years and a diverse mix of legacy hardware and software, there are now “130 unique VistA instances across the VA enterprise making modernization and standardization efforts extremely complicated, expensive and time consuming.”   

As recently as 2014, VA’s confidence in VistA was so strong that they offered it up as a solution for DOD’s efforts to replace its current EHR. But this was prior to Council’s arrival at VA in July 2015. “There are multiple needs that are different than in 2014 around the area of women’s health, the Internet of things and how we manage private sector care,” she told the appropriations committee in March. 

Council’s intent is to develop an EHR strategy and plan that can serve as a long-term foundation for VA and help them better serve veterans and their care providers. VA requested $40 million less for VistA modernization in its 2017 IT budget than what was originally slated two years ago in order to be able to reevaluation the platform. 

The recent RFI is meant to include more than just a commercial EHR. “The modernized VHA system of systems of the future will include more than just a COTS EHR in order to facilitate and automate business processes that support access and Veteran’s care.  The scope of this RFI does NOT include the Information Technology software or hardware change, but rather in helping the VHA clinical and business processes achieve this transformation in the most efficient and cost effective manner.” VA is interested in contractors with prior experience transitioning large healthcare systems to new EHRs.

Responses to the RFI are due via email by August 26, 2016.