Guest Commentary

Todd Graves: New system will modernize VA record keeping

Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin announced plans to revamp the department’s information technology system at the Department of Veterans Affairs in Washington, Monday, June 5, 2017.
Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin announced plans to revamp the department’s information technology system at the Department of Veterans Affairs in Washington, Monday, June 5, 2017. AP

The last couple of weeks have been busy news weeks. With nearly nonstop developments on Capitol Hill and elsewhere in Washington, D.C., you may have missed some very good news for veterans — and for Missourians.

Recently, Secretary of Veterans Affairs David J. Shulkin announced that the VA will overhaul its decades-old electronic patient record system. Rather than simply revamping the old system, and in an effort to provide better, more streamlined care for veterans, the VA will upgrade to a commercial system.

Historically, most of the VA’s patient information comes from the Department of Defense, but the VA and DOD have not shared an electronic health record system. Instead, they have exchanged patient information electronically — in other words, the old-fashioned way. According to Shulkin, the VA will adopt a system based on the same platform used by the DOD. This means these entities will no longer have to manually exchange information, since each veteran and active duty service member alike will have one integrated patient record, rather than two sets of records in two systems.

More good news is that the system should be implemented within as little as three to six months, since the VA will be allowed to bypass the traditional bidding process. The idea is that the VA will be able to acquire the technology directly from Cerner Corp., since the system currently used by the DOD is based on the next-generation Cerner Millennium System.

It is unfortunate that this monumental development did not attract more widespread attention, given that providing the best possible health care for our veterans is a cause everyone can get behind, regardless of party affiliation. The magnitude of veterans-related issues is underscored by the fact that approximately 21.8 million Americans are veterans of the armed forces.

A huge number of men and women across the nation — including nearly half a million here in Missouri — have given of themselves to benefit us. The least we can do is take notice of and applaud the developments that will benefit them.

What is also particularly noteworthy is that Cerner, the company that will be developing the VA technology, is based right here in Missouri. Cerner is a worldwide supplier of health information technology that was founded in 1979 and is headquartered in North Kansas City. Missourians can also take pride in this exciting effort to improve health care for our veterans, since Cerner’s success should make all Kansas Citians proud.

Ultimately, this is very good news for Americans and Missourians alike in the midst of a few very daunting news weeks. This massive development in the VA’s health care technology, along with any other improvements that stand to benefit our veterans, deserves applause. This much-needed breakthrough will help us work smarter for the many men and women who have worked so hard for us.

Todd Graves is chairman of the Missouri Republican Party.

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