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VA halts new EHR installments to 2023 to address system flaws

par John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter | June 24, 2022
Health IT
The VA has pushed back future deployments of its new EHR system until 2023.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is holding off on future deployments of its new electronic health records system until 2023.

Following "unanticipated outages and system degradations" since the first installment, the agency revised its schedule to address potential gaps, particularly at complex sites, according to the Military Times.

As such, deployment at the Puget Sound VA Health Care System has been pushed back to March, and at the VA Portland Health Care System to April. The VA will deploy the solution at Boise, Idaho sites next month, as scheduled. The delays also follow the release of a draft report by the VA Office of Inspector General, which found that the system caused harm to at least 148 veterans, reported The Spokesman-Review.

The findings are “seriously troubling and contradict what we have heard from VA officials,” said House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Mark Takano and HVAC Subcommittee on Technology Modernization Chairman Frank Mrvan, in a statement.

Designed by Cerner, the system has been in the works since 2018 and is the same one being adopted by the Department of Defense. The first installment was in November 2020 at Mann-Grandstaff.

Originally estimated to be $10 billion, the cost of the project was later raised to $16 billion. In May 2021, a government report indicated that the VA underestimated infrastructure costs by as much as $2.6 billion, and another in July said an additional $2.5 billion was needed for IT costs.

Installations have also been delayed due to the pandemic, training failures, shutdowns, data migration problems and patient safety concerns. The OIG watchdog report indicates that the VA continued installations, even after its safety team informed it in October 2021 of the harm the system caused. "Between major deployments, the VA will continue to work vigorously to ensure that the system has the capability enhancements and is optimized to support deployment at Level IA facilities and VA’s ambitious deployment schedule in 2023," said a VA spokesperson.

Oracle acquired Cerner on June 6 and plans to devote “substantially more resources” to the project “with an emphasis on patient safety,” according to Deborah Hellinger, vice president of global corporate communications. The company says it already has engineers making technical and operational changes.

The VA is requesting that Oracle Cerner develop an execution plan for testing the solution.

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