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Cerner-AbleVets deal aimed at helping federal programs

EHR vendor Cerner Corp. is bringing an IT consulting firm into the fold to assist with its work with federal clients, particularly with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Cerner is acquiring IT consulting and engineering firm AbleVets, a certified Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned small business. AbleVets will provide technical expertise to Cerner while the company implements its products for the federal government, according to a Cerner news release. Travis Dalton, president of Cerner Government Services, said that AbleVets has been a “trusted partner” to Cerner and is already providing “critical support” to Cerner’s federal programs, according to the press release. The acquisition is expected to be completed before the end of the year.

In 2018, Cerner was awarded a multi-billion dollar contract to implement its EHR for the VA over 10 years. The vision is to bring the VA, which currently uses a homegrown EHR called VistA, onto the same health record system as the Department of Defense in an effort to connect health records between the two departments. By November, the price tag for the EHR migration climbed from $10 billion to $16.1 billion, with a majority of additional funds needed to keep VistA up and running during the transition. Just last month, the VA announced plans to delay the rollout.

Chilmark Research founder John Moore called the EHR migration a “massive endeavor” but believes the acquisition will be useful. He said AbleVets will provide Cerner with “fairly deep expertise” about the VA and VA systems, as well as strengthen relationships within the VA, he said.

“It’s a very public endeavor… that has received a lot of scrutiny from Congress and will continue to receive a lot of scrutiny from Congress and others,” Moore said. “So Cerner’s going to do whatever it takes to make sure this relationship with the VA works for the VA and for who the VA serves: our veterans.”

Last month, Cerner laid off 255 employees in a move to refine its operating model. Moore doesn’t see the acquisition and layoffs as being related, describing the layoffs as an organizational “realignment.” Cerner’s statement on the layoffs said the company has already onboarded 3,000 associates in 2019 and has plans to hire hundreds more.

According to the news release, AbleVets employs 350 professionals who are skilled in cybersecurity, technology enablement and analytics. Many of the employees are veterans, the release said.

“I launched AbleVets to deliver health IT solutions that improve veteran health,” Wyatt Smith, M.D., founder and CEO of AbleVets and a Navy veteran, said in the release. “By working with Cerner over the past year, we’ve been able to make important strides in laying the groundwork on our shared mission to transform care for those who served our country…We’re excited to join forces with Cerner and bring even more value and quality healthcare to those who have served.”

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