Veteran's Lawsuit Alleges VA EHR Defects Delayed Cancer Diagnosis

A veteran is seeking unspecified monetary damages from the federal government and the vendors behind the VA EHR system due to alleged system flaws.

An Eastern Washington veteran and his wife have filed a lawsuit against the federal government and the vendors behind the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) EHR system, alleging that system defects delayed the veteran's cancer diagnosis, according to reporting from The Spokesman-Review.

Charlie Bourg and his wife, Deborah Brinson, filed the lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Washington last week.

They are seeking unspecified monetary damages from the government and the vendors behind the EHR platform: Cerner, the recipient of a $10 billion VA contract in 2018, and Oracle, which acquired Cerner for $28.3 billion in 2022.

Bourg said he blames the government and the companies that brought the EHR to the Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center in Spokane, not the providers who use the system.

Clinicians have told Bourg his prostate cancer has spread and is no longer treatable.

"Everybody at the hospital has been good to me, except for the administration," he told the news outlet. "They tried to do everything right — whether the urologists, the primary care, the oncologists — and they've all suffered from this program, too, along with the rest of the staff there."

According to the lawsuit, soon after VA deployed the system at the Spokane VA hospital, Bourg had a routine blood test in December 2020 that showed signs of possible prostate cancer. Bourg's primary care provider sent a message through the new EHR to a urology specialist, who opened the message a day later and placed an order for a follow-up appointment.

The lawsuit alleges that a "system defect" caused the order to "route to a massive unorganized queue and essentially disappear," so the urology clinic didn't schedule a follow-up.

When Bourg saw his primary care provider in April 2021, they realized what had happened, and the provider sent another order to schedule an appointment for early May.

While the platform routed the order to the correct recipient, a different system flaw allegedly changed the date of the appointment to September 2021, four months later than ordered, Bourg later learned when he asked his provider what happened.

When he saw a urologist and had a biopsy in October 2021, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer.

After surgery to remove his prostate in January 2022, doctors told Bourg the cancer had spread to other parts of his body and was no longer treatable. A year ago, doctors told him he likely had between one and two years to live, he said.

Bourg's and Brinson's attorney, Mark Kamitomo, told the news outlet that he expects the case to take more than a year.

Bourg said he understands he may not live to see its conclusion. He hopes the court will award damages he could leave to his wife, children, grandchildren, and a local veterans' group.

"I'm just playing it by ear," Bourg said. "There's not much I can do. Just keep fighting for veterans' care and for my family."

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