Senate Appoints VA Deputy Secretary to Lead EHR Modernization Project

In her new role as deputy secretary, Tanya Bradsher will oversee the troubled VA EHR modernization program launched in October 2020.

The Senate has confirmed Tanya Bradsher to serve as deputy secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), making her the top official in charge of the EHR modernization (EHRM) program, according to reporting from NextGov.

The EHRM is a decade-long effort to replace the VA's legacy EHR with a platform from EHR vendor Oracle Cerner. However, system downtime, poor EHR user satisfaction, cost overruns, and patient safety concerns with the system have led VA to pause additional EHR go-lives as the department addresses issues at five sites where the EHR is in use.

Bradsher, who served 20 years in the Army, had been serving as VA's chief of staff upon nomination for the second-ranking job in April. She is the first woman and woman of color to serve as VA's deputy secretary.

"Now more than ever, the department needs a strong second-in-command to uphold its mission to deliver veterans the healthcare and benefits they have earned, and having a confirmed leader in this role better ensures we can hold VA accountable," Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), the chairman of the VA Committee, said on the Senate floor.

At her confirmation hearing in May, Bradsher recognized the problems of the multibillion-dollar EHR project. However, she noted that updated contract terms will help VA hold Oracle Cerner accountable.

"The original contract was a five-year contract, so we didn't have the ability to bring Cerner — or now Oracle Cerner — back to the drawing board until every five years," Bradsher told lawmakers. "The changes that they made … is to have five one-year contracts, so every year we can hold Oracle Cerner accountable."

Bradsher also pointed out that penalties are now "30 times greater for outages," which will help VA hold Oracle Cerner responsible for system downtime.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) had put Bradsher's nomination on hold, saying that she refused his efforts to pursue a whistleblower investigation into the possibility of personal veteran health information leaking through access to the VA's Integrated Enterprise Workflow Solution application.

"Both the VA and Ms. Bradsher in her current role as chief of staff have shown repeated indifference to congressional oversight," Grassley said in a statement on Sept. 7, urging colleagues to vote no on the nomination.

The Senate confirmed Bradsher to serve as deputy secretary by a vote of 50-46.

Next Steps

Dig Deeper on Clinical documentation

Cloud Computing
Mobile Computing