VA Announces Efforts to Address Oracle Cerner EHR Outages

After experiencing several EHR outages, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) plans to work with Oracle Cerner to address the EHR issues.

In a joint effort, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Oracle Cerner will launch a series of investigations to identify and fix frequent Oracle Cerner EHR outages, according to reporting from FedScoop.

Earlier this year, the VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) conducted an inspection to assess a safety concern with the new EHR that resulted in patient harm.

One of the concerns with the highest patient safety risk was described as the "unknown queue.”

A report reviewed the unknown queue and found that the EHR sent thousands of orders for medical care to an undetectable location instead of the intended service location.

Since that report was released, VA officials have not said if Oracle Cerner has fixed the EHR software flaw.

According to FedScoop, VA officials stated the flaw “rises to the top of patient safety risks the department is trying to address as soon as possible.”

However, there is no current timeline on when the investigation into the EHR software flaws will be completed. A VA official did mention that a readiness checklist will be used on a case-by-case basis to identify where the EHR rollout should continue.

“The checklist is important from the standpoint of ensuring adequate training, the readiness of the facility — from the standpoint of making sure the right infrastructure is in place so that clinical issues are anticipated and dealt with before we go live,” Shereef Elnahal, MD, VA’s under security for health, said in a statement.

Elnahal also mentioned that EHR configuration, routine upgrades, and streamlined workflows are the next priority that is critical to the success of the VA EHR modernization project. Still, fixing patient safety issues identified by the OIG should trump any EHR configurations and future rollouts.

“We need to, as a first priority, fix those issues before we deploy anything,” Elnahal said. “And that is what we’re focused on.”

A previous statement from VA Secretary Denis McDonough also stressed VA’s intention to improve safety risks.

McDonough confirmed that the VA will not continue with any Oracle Cerner EHR rollouts until all patient safety risks are fixed.

“I think we’ve been clear that we have to be confident that these risks to patient safety are addressed before we go live,” McDonough said, according to FedScoop. “So we’re not just focused on the passage of time between now and next year, we’re focused on improving the system.”

“We won’t go to roll out the EHR in any of the other hospitals until we have a go-live checklist addressed and until we have our patient safety concerns [addressed], and then we’ll be in a position to make a decision on the rollout,” McDonough continued.

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