VA lowballed health record modernization costs, watchdog says — FCW

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IT Modernization

VA lowballed well being file modernization prices, watchdog says

 

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In a newly launched report, the inspector normal on the Division of Veterans Affairs signifies that the $16 billion price estimate for the swap to the Cerner digital well being file system does not incorporate billions of {dollars} in wanted bodily infrastructure prices.

The general public launch of the report, the primary of two to deal with hidden prices within the Digital Well being Document Modernization (EHRM) program, is available in week 10 of a 12-week strategic assessment of this system  — a assessment that was introduced on March 19 by company chief Denis McDonough.

In response to the report, VA might have underestimated bodily infrastructure improve prices by as a lot as $2.6 billion. The second report will cowl price estimates associated to IT infrastructure upgrades. Bodily infrastructure covers local weather management, air flow, cabling and electrical work; IT infrastructure contains laptop {hardware} and networking gear.

At present, the prices of the general challenge are cut up cross completely different funds strains. The EHRM effort has its personal line within the VA appropriation, to cowl the prices of the $10 billion software program contract with Cerner over the course of the 10-year interval of efficiency, in addition to $4.3 billion for IT infrastructure and $1.7 billion for program administration, totaling simply over $16 billion.

Further infrastructure prices are being borne by the Workplace of Info and Expertise and by the Veterans Well being Administration. The IG report’s key discovering is that it isn’t actually clear how a lot over the preliminary $16 billion the extra infrastructure wants will price. It may very well be a further $3 billion, but it surely may very well be extra.

The Workplace of Digital Well being Document Modernization did not embody bodily infrastructure prices in its estimates, in response to the report, “as a result of VHA was chargeable for upgrades to medical services,”  and it had been informed by VHA’s chief monetary officer that the accountability of reporting bodily infrastructure prices fell to VHA.

VHA’s price estimates are characterised within the IG report as not well-documented, not dependable and never credible. VHA’s infrastructure upgrades should not supported by any particular appropriation — they arrive from the medical services funds. This creates the potential downside of VHA having to pay for the distinction between estimated price and precise price out of different funds “or threat jeopardizing the system’s deployment schedule.”

“This was already going to be the most costly digital well being file overhaul in America,” Rep. Mike Bost (R-In poor health.), the rating member of the Home Veterans Affairs Committee, stated in an emailed assertion. “Now we all know VA has been underestimating it by a minimum of $3 billion. VA should be upfront with Congress concerning the true prices of this effort. That’s the reason I’ve been calling for the continuing strategic assessment to incorporate a whole, up to date price estimate.”

The Cerner system is underneath assessment due to productiveness points at Mann-Granstaff VA Medical Middle in Spokane, Wash., the preliminary go-live website. A few of the issues — prescription mixups, points with the affected person portal and employees coaching points — had been reported in a March 17 letter to McDonough from Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.).

One huge query the assessment should reply is ought to the Cerner program go ahead or be scrapped.

“The issue they’re operating into proper now’s that because of implementing the brand new system in Spokane, productiveness is down,” Roger Baker, former VA CIO, informed FCW in an e-mail. “It is onerous to justify spending to Congress that is going to drive down productiveness. They have to determine if there’s a higher than break-even level, and may they proceed forward.”

Baker, who has estimated the true 10-year price of the digital well being file substitute program at about $30 billion, stated that the important thing marketed advantage of the information system — full interoperability with the Protection Division’s personal Cerner system — have been oversold.

“VA and DOD had been by no means going to make use of the very same system. The enterprise processes are completely different. As these two methods began to range, there was going to be drift,” he stated. Moreover, the Cerner strategy does not remedy the difficulty of group care interoperability — a key ingredient of VA care underneath latest laws that expands veteran entry to non-public sector suppliers.

“Native suppliers are going to be far more vital in veteran care than DOD services,” Baker stated.

Concerning the Writer

Adam Mazmanian is government editor of FCW.


Earlier than becoming a member of the modifying workforce, Mazmanian was an FCW employees author overlaying Congress, government-wide know-how coverage and the Division of Veterans Affairs. Previous to becoming a member of FCW, Mazmanian was know-how correspondent for Nationwide Journal and served in quite a lot of editorial roles at B2B information service SmartBrief. Mazmanian has contributed opinions and articles to the Washington Publish, the Washington Metropolis Paper, Newsday, New York Press, Architect Journal and different publications.


Click on right here for earlier articles by Mazmanian. Join with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.

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