Cerner $10 Billion VA Contract Comes To Screeching Halt

Posted on January 5, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she’s served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

After Cerner captured the massive multi billion dollar contract to roll out its EMR for the Department of Defense, everyone was a bit stunned, as many thought Epic was a lock for the job.

Cerner seems to have been conducting the rollout as promised, so there’s that. But when it comes to its performance in meeting the requirements of its $10 billion contract with the VA, things aren’t looking as good. Apparently, Cerner’s DoD implementation isn’t sharing data well with Cerner’s VA systems. Oops.

According to Politico, the Cerner contract with the VA is running into serious questions about its capacity for fluid data sharing. The VA’s Cerner rollout has been held up by questions about its ability to interoperate with the DoD system.

VA Secretary David Shulkin, who’s perhaps the biggest critic of Cerner’s efforts, had his agency issue a request for information looking for examples of data-sharing solutions. Shulkin is proposing that the VA conduct tests of the system’s capacity for interoperability, in which the department would send patients through the VA system and see whether it can share useful data with the VA along the way. If the test has a bad outcome, it’s likely to ramp up the tension considerably.

What makes all of this particularly embarrassing is that the VA awarded the contract to Cerner without conducting the usual bidding process, largely because the agency believed having its own Cerner implementation would make it easier to share data with the DoD. Good luck with that, folks.

I’m sure that key managers on the VA project are freaking out at this point.  The combined multi billion dollars the DoD and VA have entrusted Cerner with represents a massive commitment, and when a customer that size starts questioning whether they’ve made a good investment, the ground must have begun trembling under Cerner’s feet. Not to mention the consultants from Leidos, etc who are charged with delivering a massive chunk of the project.

It’s hard to imagine that Epic isn’t seeing if it can take advantage of the situation. While it may not have the ability to horn in on the contracts themselves, I’m sure that it’s making sure customers know about what’s happening, and using the news to suggest that Cerner doesn’t have its act together.

I don’t know what will happen if the VA continues to find fault with Cerner, but it can’t be pretty.