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10/24/2011
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VA Awards $55 Million Contract For Surgical Workflow

Harris will install GE Centricity system to boost patient throughput for 6,000 surgeons at 130 Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals.

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IT firm Harris Corp. has won a five-year, $54.9 million contract from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to integrate a commercial surgical workflow management system into the VA's massive health IT infrastructure. The contract represents the first enterprise-wide award in the department's new strategy of acquiring commercial, off-the-shelf software to augment the powerful but aging Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture (VistA).

For the VA's Surgical Quality and Workflow Manager (SQWM) program, Harris will deploy a GE Healthcare Centricity surgical information system at all 130 VA hospitals that perform surgery. According to Melbourne, Fla.-based Harris, the technology will help reduce waiting times for surgeries, avoid cancellations, and boost patient throughput for the 6,000 surgeons who together perform 400,000 procedures annually at VA facilities.

Though the VA and the U.S. Department of Defense recently launched an open-source community to link electronic health records among departments, the Veterans Health Administration is increasingly looking to the private sector to modernize pieces of its technology. The core VistA infrastructure and its replacement will remain open source, VA officials have said.

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Harris said SQWM will automate scheduling, test ordering, and surgical equipment tracking, as well as make it easier for staff to access patient information before, during, and after surgical procedures. The system also is intended to provide more information to each patient's family and improve patient satisfaction. On the latter point, Harris will install monitors in waiting areas so authorized family members can keep track of their loved ones in surgery.

"What the VA is really trying to address," said Donald Mestas, director for federal healthcare solutions at Harris, "is enhancing the safety of the surgical experience."

Under terms of the contract, Harris will deploy the Centricity system and interface the technology with various VistA modules to tie together what currently is a hodgepodge of surgical systems, Mestas told InformationWeek Healthcare. The contractor will provide change management services, supply maintenance, and staff a helpdesk for VA clinicians and other workers.

Harris plans on running alpha and beta testing before taking the SQWM technology to the entire VA enterprise, Mestas said.

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