Jim Gfrerer, CIO at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), said today that the agency is “constantly looking” to modernize several hundred technical functions and applications in order to improve on legacy technology environments.

“While we do manage a software factory … we have 830 applications that we are constantly looking to retire, refactor, and replace,” Gfrerer said at a virtual event organized by Nextgov and Defense One.

“Everything we are doing,” he said, is geared toward moving applications to “modernized platforms,” and to an “environment that is a manageable environment,” the CIO said. That includes “moving things to a cloud, and off-premise environments,” and getting away from legacy architectures, he explained. Part of that effort is looking use “best of breed commercial applications,” he said.

By way of example, Gfrerer explained how VA revamped service it provides to veterans’ caregivers by replacing existing technology with a new low-code platform that delivers better service. Choosing the low-code platform, he said, “helps things move fast.”

Speaking of VA’s recent launch of its new electronic health record (EHR) system at agency facilities in the Pacific Northwest and Las Vegas, Gfrerer said that “ripping and replacing an EHR program” was “not an easy lift.” But, he continued, “the much heavier lift is around the change management aspect of that,” so VA invested many months of effort in conducting workshops with clinicians to explain how workflows need to adjust to the new system.

In addition to working as the agency’s CIO, Gfrerer said he comes to work every day from “the perspective of a patient of VA.” He continued, “as a 28-year veteran … I have the benefit of being a veteran myself … and really knowing what the challenges are.”

“At the end of the day, it’s about outcomes for the business, it’s about enabling processes, and allowing [VA] to provide benefits to veterans,” he said.

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John Curran
John Curran
John Curran is MeriTalk's Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.