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VA Executives Call for Modifications to House EHR Reform Proposals

If passed, the EHR Modernization Improvement Act would prevent VA from implementing its new EHR at additional facilities without sign-off from senior clinicians.

While Veterans Affairs (VA) executives support elements of reform bills that would hold its EHR modernization (EHRM) project to a higher standard, the agency is requesting modifications before fully endorsing any of the proposed legislation, according to reporting from Federal News Network.

In his prepared remarks to the House oversight and investigations subcommittee, Phillip Christy, deputy executive director of VA’s Office of Acquisition, Logistics, and Construction, said that the agency supports elements of the EHR Modernization Improvement Act led by House Republicans.

If passed, the act would prevent the VA from implementing the Oracle Cerner EHR platform at any more facilities without sign-off from senior clinicians.

Additionally, the proposed legislation would prohibit VA and Oracle Cerner from commencing go-live preparations at additional sites until the agency secretary certifies that the system has achieved 99.9 percent uptime and that technical fixes are complete.

However, VA is looking to modify language requiring the “completion of all improvements or modifications” to the Oracle Cerner EHR that have already been contracted out before the agency can resume additional go-lives.

Christy noted VA has EHR improvements underway, and some won’t be done by the end of the year.

“Many of these improvements are important, but not essential, for a future go-live,” Christy wrote.

Leslie Sofocleous, executive director of VA’s EHR Modernization Integration Office, said that “productive negotiations and conversations” are ongoing between VA and Oracle Cerner over new terms for the EHR contract.

She said that the negotiations focus on the EHR’s performance level and VA’s  “ability to hold Oracle Cerner accountable.

“We do have backup strategies in place and will be more than happy to provide updates as we move forward with negotiations,” Sofocleous said.

Christy said that VA also supports the VA IT Modernization Improvement Act, led by top Democrats on the House committee if Congress attaches funding to the bill.

The legislation would require VA’s Chief Acquisition Officer to contract an independent verification and validation (IV&V) of several VA modernization efforts.

“VA anticipates an IV&V contract of this size would be extremely expensive. Appropriate and timely funding of this bill is critical,” Christy said.

The third-party auditor would manage the rollout of VA’s EHR and its Veterans Benefits Management System, Financial Management Business Transformation, and supply chain modernization efforts.

“From an acquisition and a VA perspective, this is a good thing for the VA and veterans,” Christy said.

However, the VA opposes the Manage VA Act, which would require the agency to create an undersecretary for management position to oversee its IT and acquisition decisions.

Christy said the VA Deputy Secretary already holds this role as the agency’s COO.

The VA also opposes a bill that proposes the termination of the EHR Modernization program authored by Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.), VA technology modernization subcommittee chairman.

“Modernizing VA’s EHR is critical for providing the best care for our veterans and facilitates advancements in the delivery of that care. We believe terminating the program would work against those goals,” Christy said.

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