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House Lawmakers Introduce Bills to Amend VA EHR Modernization Program

The VA EHR Modernization Improvement Act would require senior clinician sign-off for VA to implement the Oracle Cerner EHR platform at additional facilities.

On Friday, Rep. Mike Bost, R-Ill., House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs chair, introduced legislation to significantly amend or scrap the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) EHR modernization program completely, according to reporting from FedScoop.

If passed, the VA Electronic Health Record Modernization Improvement Act would prevent the VA from implementing the Oracle Cerner EHR platform at any more facilities without sign-off from senior clinicians.

The proposal comes after the EHR system experienced further network issues at VA locations last week.

The bill is co-sponsored by nine other Republican lawmakers: Reps. Matt Rosendale, Mont.; Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Wash.; Mike Carey, Ohio; Troy Balderson, Ohio; Dan Newhouse, Wash.; Mike Simpson, Idaho; Cliff Bentz, Ore.; Jim Banks, Ind.; and Richard Hudson, NC.

According to the draft bill’s language, the director, chief of staff, and network director at every VA medical center would have to certify proper EHR configuration and sufficient staffing levels and infrastructure to support its use before implementation.

The bill would also require frontline medical leaders to certify that system deployment would not impact patient safety or wait times.

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

After halting the rollout last year amid major patient safety concerns, VA is working with Oracle Cerner, lawmakers, and the White House to create a new EHR implementation timeline.

“I have traveled across the country and seen and heard firsthand the impact the Oracle Cerner product has had on VA providers and veterans,” Rep. Bost said. “It has crippled the delivery of care, put veteran patient safety at risk, and stressed an already overwhelmed healthcare system.”

“While I commend the Secretary for pausing deployment of the new EHR at future sites, I am not confident that will be enough,” he added. “It’s simple: the Oracle Cerner system should not be implemented at any more VA sites until the VAMC leadership certifies that the medical center is ready. That’s exactly what our bill would do.”

Rep. Bost also introduced a complementary bill in the House, co-sponsored with Rep. Matt Rosendale, R-Mont., which would scrap the EHR platform if VA does not make sufficient progress in system improvement.

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