Cerner EHR Has Gone Down 50 Times Since 2020 VA Implementation

According to a VA official, the Cerner EHR system in Spokane has seen 42 “unplanned degradations” and eight “unplanned outages” over the past two years.

The Cerner EHR system at Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center in Spokane has gone down more than fifty times since the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) implemented it in 2020, according to reporting from The Spokesman-Review.

The health IT platform saw 42 “unplanned degradations” and eight “unplanned outages” between its launch and April 20, 2022, VA spokesman Randal Noller said in an emailed response to questions from the news outlet.

VA officials informed a congressional panel that two more outages occurred on April 25 and 26, totaling 52 incidents where the EHR system was fully or partially unusable.

The VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) has estimated that the planned 10-year EHR modernization (EHRM) project, which is behind schedule, will cost as much as $21 billion and another $2 billion for each additional year it takes to finish.

Noller pointed out in the email to The Spokesman-Review that most of the incidents were not “large-scale outages.”

He said many of the “degradations of service” affected only some end-users at Mann-Grandstaff and its affiliated clinics.

After multiple delays prompted by technical problems that threatened patient safety, VA launched the EHR system at facilities in Walla Walla on March 26 and in Columbus, Ohio, on April 30.

“No matter the type or size of incident, VA and Cerner employ an extensive incident management protocol to ensure users can continue to provide quick, safe and effective care,” Noller said in the email.

When the system goes down, the affected VA employees must use “downtime procedures,” which involve recording all information by hand and entering it into the health IT system once it is live again.

VA did not answer a question from the news outlet about the total amount of system downtime and did not immediately respond to follow-up questions.

In an April 26 hearing, Rep. Frank Mrvan of Indiana, the Democratic chair of the House subcommittee charged with oversight of the Cerner rollout, said the VA should not implement the EHR at larger, more complex facilities until the department resolves system issues.

VA Secretary Denis McDonough has not announced any change to the deployment schedule.

The Cerner system is next set to launch in Roseburg and White City, Oregon, on June 11.

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