Cerner execs say VA deal 'feels good,' and they have an appetite for more

Just days after Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, MD, testified before Congress that the entire EHR modernization project VA presumptively awarded to Cerner will take 7 to 8 years, Cerner executives answered questions about the deal in an earnings call with investors.

“We have not finished anything, but we anticipate that the VA would commit to the broad project,” Cerner President Zane Burke said late Thursday.

CFO Marc Naughton added that “all we know for sure is that it feels good that [the contract] is going to get done,” in the fourth quarter.

[Also: Epic’s rival EHR vendors say they too are making the ‘CHR’ switch]

That’s not to say nothing has happened yet, of course.

Burke explained that Cerner has “made good progress with the VA on scoping the full work effort.” That includes crafting a plan, contract negotiations that are underway, and determining who will be the prime contractor; Burke said he expects Cerner to play that role.

“We’re on the verge of beginning the largest healthcare IT project of all-time with the VA,” Naughton said.

[Also: Cerner EHR project for VA will take 7 to 8 years, Shulkin says]

What’s more, the VA project, along with the DoD EHR modernization initiative Cerner already has underway, could mark the beginning of similar arrangements with other federal agencies.

“We believe we are in the early stages of government business beyond DoD and VA,” Burke said. “It includes opportunities like the Federal Bureau of Prison, Coast Guard, Indian Health, and state Medicaid programs.”  

[Also: DoD rolls out Cerner EHR at second military site]

Cerner is also looking at non-governmental EHR deals. Indeed, Burke said the 2,000 hospitals are still running legacy electronic health records software comprise a robust replacement market.

“Clients are figuring out they need more information rather than less. They need more data sets from other places,” Burke said. “They need intelligence above all that data to help them drive their operations in a more effective and efficient manner.”

And looking beyond EHR projects Naughton predicted much more is to come.

“The shift to value-based care,” Naughton said, “will represent an even bigger opportunity than the EMR era.”

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