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Biden’s 2024 Fiscal Budget Request Seeks $1.9B for VA EHR Modernization

The fiscal 2024 budget request asks Congress for additional funding to support the troubled VA EHR modernization project.

The Biden administration’s fiscal 2024 budget request to Congress seeks $1.9 billion in federal IT spending to continue rolling out the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) EHR modernization (EHRM) project.

The budget request notes that modernizing the VA’s EHR will help veterans “receive world-class healthcare well into the future.”

Additionally, the budget request seeks $6.4 billion for the VA’s Office of Information Technology (IT) to continue upgrades to VA IT systems.

“The Administration is focused on understanding where agencies are on their IT modernization journeys and making intentional investments at the right time to enable secure technology and innovation to advance from year to year,” the budget request noted.

The Oracle Cerner EHR is currently in use at five VA sites, but delays due to safety issues flagged by the VA inspector general and frequent system outages have plagued rollout.

Recently, the VA delayed the EHR rollout at an Ann Arbor facility due to concerns over compatibility with the hospital’s medical research system. In October 2022, the VA postponed further EHR go-lives until June 2023 after watchdog reports raised patient safety concerns related to the system. The purpose of the pause was to “assess and address” EHR issues and shortcomings of the EHRM program.

The troubled EHR has several issues that have caused some lawmakers to question whether the program should continue.

In early May, Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.) introduced a bill that would require significant improvement or discontinuation of the VA Oracle Cerner EHR program. Additionally, all facilities would return to using the legacy VistA system.

Rep. Mike Bost (R-Ill.), the House Veterans Affairs Committee chairman, co-sponsored the bill.

On January 27, Rep. Bost introduced another bill that would prohibit the VA from implementing the Oracle Cerner EHR platform at additional facilities without the approval of senior clinicians. Both bills have faced opposition from Oracle, which acquired EHR vendor Cerner last year.

Ken Glueck, executive vice president of Oracle, argued that reverting to the legacy VA EHR would take healthcare for veterans backward.

“VistA cannot be made better; it will just be made older, less secure, and more expensive to operate,” Glueck wrote. “Worse, it will deny our veterans the many benefits modern healthcare technology offers.”

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