But that's no small task: As Shulkin said, ever-changing information sharing standards between the two departments and the separate chains of command, governance, funding and procurement schedules have made any effort to modernize holistically incredibly hard. "So while in the last administration we considered this and we looked at a number of things, I think that it really was this administration and the president's mandate to do business differently that allowed us to move forward with this type of speed". "The [determination of findings] notes that there is a public interest exception to the requirement for full and open competition, and determines that the VA may issue a solicitation directly to Cerner Corporation for the acquisition of the EHR system now being deployed by DOD, for deployment and transition across the VA enterprise in a manner that meets VA needs, and which will enable seamless healthcare to Veterans and qualified beneficiaries". "And that's exactly what we're trying to do today", Shulkin said.
The VA's future platform won't be identical to the Pentagon's but "similar", Shulkin said, because "VA has unique needs and many of those are different from the DoD".
The system would replace the VA's aging information technology system, known as Vista, which has been in use for decades. "And, because of that, we're making a decision to move towards a commercial off-the-shelf product".
But the bottom line was that "we still don't have the ability to trade information seamlessly for our Veteran patients and seamlessly execute a share plan of acre with smooth handoffs", Shulkin said. He said that has "caused massive problems for our veterans".
"I did not see a compelling reason why being in the software development business was good for veterans", said Shulkin.
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He promised a system that will not only be interoperable with DOD records but also easily transferable to private-sector hospitals and physicians, as VA officials work to expand outside partnerships.
The White House has been pushing Shulkin out as a key spokesman more than most other Cabinet secretaries in recent months; he's joined press secretary Sean Spicer for a handful of briefings to outline how to reform the VA.
Shulkin added: "Our mission is too important not to get this right and we will". He did not offer a cost estimate, but noted the Pentagon signed a $4.3 billion contract for its health system, which is smaller than VA's. "I will tell you, this is something Congress has been asking for; I believe they will support this". This is an exciting new phase for VA, DOD, and for the country.
Improving veteran care has been a top priority for Trump both on the campaign trail and as President. "And I congratulate Secretary Shulkin for making this very, very important decision".