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Cerner head suggests negative reports about DoD contract may be 'fake news'

by Thomas Dworetzky , Contributing Reporter
Cerner President Zane Burke thinks that the negative reports about the company's Department of Defense work is an example of "fake news."

Burke told shareholders last week that the DoD work may have been slammed with the help of a “competitor,” according to the Kansas City Star newspaper.

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"If you had an ax to grind with us and wanted to perhaps keep us from getting to a Veterans [Administration] contract, and you’re one of our competitors, you might want to use some information negatively. There was some negative information out there," he said during a a recent shareholders meeting soon after the new no-bid, 10-year, $10 billion deal with the VA for its system had been signed.

"I have learned the term fake news, a little bit," he added.

The VA deal, heavily favored by Jared Kushner, came about because Veterans Affairs wanted its EHR system to be compatible with the Cerner one used at DoD.

The DoD deal came after an open-bidding process.

The VA deal had gotten hung up after a government report that the EHR system at DoD was "neither operationally effective nor operationally suitable," according to Politico.

Burke claimed the report of snags was overblown.

"On one side, there’s been some concern about some of the delivery on the Department of Defense side,” he acknowledged, countering that the effort had really “gone incredibly well overall.”

He explained that, “there were some known elements up front as we rolled out the first three sites. The plan always was to come back and do a remediation of those three sites, do an evaluation and make things better."

He also noted that the fact that the VA contract got signed underscored that the DoD was, in fact, happy with the way things were going.

The report from Politico stated that experts had found 156 “critical” or “severe” incident reports – bad enough to kill patients, which it called “devastating.”

“Traditionally, if you have more than five [reports] at that high a level, the program has significant issues,” one tester told the political news site.

The Pentagon responded on May 11, and stressed that they had made improvements to the pilot since the November expert review. "MHS Genesis is extremely important and it is important to get MHS Genesis right," said Vice Adm. Raquel Bono, chief of the Defense Health Agency at the time. "Feedback from the test community and dedicated professionals at the sites have been invaluable."

This is not the first installation that Cerner has had troubles with. In September, 2017, it got sued by Agnesian Healthcare, a hospital in Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin, over losses of at least $16 million.

At issue is a “botched” rollout, claimed the hospital, that led to $200,000 a month in damages from the billing software.

The September 15 filing by Agnesian states that issues with Cerner's software resulted in "pervasive errors in inpatient billing statements” that forced it to resort to hand billing.

Cerner spokeperson Misti Preston told the political news site at the time that, “Cerner disagrees with the allegations and will aggressively defend the case.”

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