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October 10, 2021 News 9 Comments

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The VA hires an independent body to review its Cerner implementation and to provide an estimate of the project’s full cost. It expects to see the results in 12 months.

The VA hopes that the review will finally capture all of its project-related expenses, including infrastructure upgrades that were omitted from previous estimates due to inconsistent cost tracking methods across its organizations.

Conducting the review is Institute for Defense Analyses, a non-profit that administers three federally funded research and development centers.

The most recent cost estimate was $16 billion versus its initial $10 billion price tag. 

Reader Comments

From Critical Mass: “Re: Optum-Change Healthcare merger. Survey your readers whether it should be allowed and why or why not.” I don’t know that many or most readers have an opinion either way and I question whether a yes-no poll would be enlightening, but feel free to click the Comments link and add your thoughts.

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About one-fourth of poll respondents have faxed something in the past six months, most commonly to a physician’s office and rarely to a hospital. My own experience matches that of poll comments – don’t even bother trying to enlighten the front desk person why it doesn’t make sense that the practice will accept only faxes while refusing emailed scans that they could print. I think it’s probably as much laziness as anything else since it’s easier to make the sender jump through hoops in trying to set up a free online faxing service while the recipient just occasionally wanders by the fax machine to see what’s new. Office Depot still sells exactly one model of fax machine (a pretty slick Brother for $200) but you would need a plain old telephone line that is increasingly uncommon.

New poll to your right or here:  Who is most responsible for physician dissatisfaction? Remind me to run the same poll for nurses next week.

It’s nearly that time of year when I should be registering for HIMSS22 and booking somewhere to stay, but I have to say that the lackluster HIMSS21 makes me at least consider bailing for the first time in many years.


None scheduled soon. Previous webinars are on our YouTube channel. Contact Lorre to present your own.


  • In Portugal, Unilabs chooses Sectra’s enterprise imaging solution.
  • Colombia’s Clínica Imbanaco joins the TriNetX global health research network.
  • SSM Health will outsource technology-focused inpatient care management, digital transformation, and revenue cycle management to Optum, rebadging a reported 2,000 SSM Health employees.



Heather Nelson, MHA (University of Chicago Medicine) joins Boston Children’s Hospital as SVP / CIO.


Memorial Healthcare System (FL) promotes Jeffrey Sturman, MHA from CIO to SVP /chief digital officer.


GE Healthcare promotes Catherine Estrampes, MBA to president and CEO of US and Canada.

Announcements and Implementations

China’s largest retailer, JD.com, extends its telehealth services from humans to pets. JD Pet Hospital has signed up 3,000 veterinarians who provide 24×7 online consultations and connect users to in-person providers. The company says it will attempt to solve problems such lack of industry standards, price transparency, and availability of timely services.



I took a look at productivity software Notion after reading that the company’s valuation has reached $10 billion, bolstered by viral TikTok videos by users – many of them of Generation Z – who are happy to have a minimalistic team workspace tool for remote work. I don’t know how it stacks up against its many competitors, but it looks interesting. The personal version is free and a team edition is $8 per user per month.

Sponsor Updates

  • Diameter Health names former Anthem BCBS executive Jill Hummel to its board as an independent director.
  • CHIME announces incoming board members and 2022/2023 board officers.
  • OptimizeRx joins the S&P 600 Small Cap Index.
  • PatientBond surpasses company growth and patient engagement results milestones.
  • Spok publishes a new infographic, “The state of healthcare communications.”
  • Vocera receives high ratings for demonstrating positive outcomes in the latest KLAS report, “Clinical Communication Platforms 2021.”
  • Zen Healthcare IT publishes “The Zen Guide to Mirth Connect for Vendors.”

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Mr. H, Lorre, Jenn, Dr. Jayne.
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Currently there are "9 comments" on this Article:

  1. Mr. H – My blood is boiling as I read your headline today. The VA is engaging an external firm to do a 12-month review of what’s gone wrong with a multi-billion-dollar project. If I read the article correctly, the cost of this review was undisclosed.

    For any official announcing this, why are they not doing so with an announcement of their resignation? If your organization has struggled so spectacularly that you need to do a review in the first place, how does one not see it as evidence of further incompetence that the autopsy needs to be outsourced to an organization that needs 12 months to do it. You don’t even know your own organization well enough to tell what went wrong? Or does it just take too much strength to admit you lack the courage to do so?

    I say this as a citizen who supports paying taxes for an effective government, and my comments are about the public sector institutions here. Not at all a comment about vendors and whatever their role might be. The customer owns the system, and has primary responsibility for guiding it to a successful outcome. They pay the bills, and at least theoretically should know what they want and be managing towards it. This is the kind of event at most of my prior employers that would have resulted in lots of people losing their jobs, or at least being demoted to a more appropriate job.

    Is there an article about how accountability is being upheld at the VA? They serve a population that’s risked a lot for us, and in their former line of work the price for screwups was sometimes your own life, or the lives of friends and colleagues. I’m very frustrated if something this important for serving our veterans is struggling this much, and everyone is just getting an A for the effort of kicking a can down the road.

    • I think it’s important to seek to understand before passing judgement, especially in the context of using the word “accountability”. It sounds from the tone it is backwards-looking accountability, which is looking to blame versus using forward-looking accountability, which is seeking to get a account from someone. The latter will be much profitable to the openness requested from the VA.

      I’d recommend reading the book called “Accountability”, which is framed with health care in mind. The editor is Virginia A. Sharpe

      • @DefineAccountability

        You make a fair point about wanting accountability going forward, which is what I think all of us want. I’ll still say that knowing what’s gone wrong, and that the right people have been held accountable, is a critical part of establishing accountability going forward.

        To be clear, and expand a bit on opinions I already expressed: I don’t know all the details of what’s going on at the VA. I’m not an insider there, nor do I work for a related vendor. I don’t have full official knowledge of any of the details. It may very well be that there is already fairly open internal discussion there about what went wrong. The title of the person announcing this sounded like they may be very recently added into the leadership mix due to titles starting with “Acting….”. The specific person making the announcement may very well have had nothing to do with the project, and it could be evidence that the VA is addressing problems behind closed doors. The announcement still felt empty of any recognition that the organization, and people in it, may have made costly mistakes with taxpayer money. Again, many other similar announcements by other government and private entities would usually make clear that at least some changes were underway. There would be recognition that some people may have lost jobs as a result. That someone was accountable.

        For me, it still does not absolve the VA as an organization for making no reference to changes it’s currently making or considering. What are currently seen as the top reasons this project has been troubled? What big changes have been made to adjust course in the meantime? I would hope that a serious restructuring is in the works and that they’d at least express that people are being held accountable for this. The press release didn’t address these questions, and it also appears that no reporters have asked. Without that, any announcement of a 12-month external review, for an undisclosed price, raises more questions than it answers to a reasonable person.

        As a taxpayer and someone with multiple family members the VA has been charged with caring for over the years, this is still a project that I feel a great deal of interest in and concern for. I don’t think I’m alone in acknowledging that this announcement still read like a dodge by the VA as an organization. I’m disappointed that instead of giving us an imperfect understanding of the problems right now, when it has more public attention, the announcement provided little details and is designed in a way that we’ll get a full accounting, maybe, at some point in a year when fewer people care. In the meantime, it will be a year before this report comes out, and we have veterans who need care now – often for injuries they received in service to all of us.

        I also encourage readers to be open to where the VA has needed more support from us. If there is a funding issue, I want to know about that. If there is an issue with government rules that are burdensome to the project, I want to know about that and support a good-faith rewriting of those rules. The last thing I want is to leave this with a “bash government” message. The VA, like all government agencies, needs support from a concerned and engaged electorate, and we also need to be open to where we (and our elected officials) need to do better in supporting them.

        I believe this announcement still requires far more of an explanation than was given. I think an explanation can be given that protects the identities and dignity of VA employees, but also makes it clear that changes are underway. This organization still serves a gigantic public need for a very valued constituency. Our veterans really do deserve a lifetime of strong support from the VA. I want to recognize that there is a lot of good work the VA does in fulfilling that mission. This project sounds like a corner where the VA may not be living its values. Thanks to anyone who read this whole thing.

  2. re: today’s poll on the source of physician satisfaction- my answer would have been “society” which emcompasses government care mandates, lawyers, the physician’s own contribution and the patients.

  3. UHC is amassing a huge presence in healthcare (data, contracted patient lives, POC resources, etc), where they can use their position to control cost and access, much in the same way people fear digital companies like Google having access to large amounts of healthcare data. Your CIO audience should be concerned about the motives of these vendors, short and long term. They are in it to make money, many times at the expense of patients.

  4. So, Mr. Paul Brubaker is the “Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary”, is he?

    If I’m parsing this correctly, that means he’s the “Temporary Primary, Assistant Assistant Assistant.”

    What a handle!

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