VA 'Looking Forward' to EHR Implementation Despite Legislators' Concerns

Despite several legislators’ concerns, a VA official said that he is confident the VA medical center in Walla Walla is ready for its EHR implementation.

A Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) official said that he is confident the VA medical center in Walla Walla is ready for its planned March 26th EHR implementation, according to reporting from The Union-Bulletin.

The department launched the Cerner EHR in October 2020 at a VA hospital in Spokane, kicking off its EHR Modernization (EHRM) project.

"We're looking forward to that go-live at Walla Walla on Saturday," Donald Remy, VA deputy secretary, said in a briefing Tuesday. "Everything we're doing is shaped by the lessons we've learned since go-live in Spokane and lessons that we keep learning along the way, because the veterans have earned and deserve our very best, and we'll never settle for anything less than that."

The VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) recently released a trio of reports that found "serious deficiencies and failures" with the Cerner EHR at the VA EHR Modernization (EHRM) pilot site in Spokane.

OIG reported that the EHR implementation has presented technical challenges for clinical documentation and referral management that have patient safety at risk.

In particular, the report found that data migration errors led to inaccuracies in patient demographic information such as name, gender, and contact information.

OIG also noted that clinical documentation processes have posed challenges to end-users, including creating additional work and limiting providers' ability to code patient diagnoses correctly.

In the Tuesday briefing, Remy said that the EHR implementation in Spokane has given the department the tools to address issues as they arise in Walla Walla.

The department is set to launch the system in Walla Walla on Saturday, despite demands from several legislators to delay the go-live until the department resolves the problems with the system in Spokane.

"After hearing from the VA Office of Inspector General, it's clear to me that VA is not ready for go-live of the EHR system at the VA Medical Center in Walla Walla, and we need to put a pause on this rollout right now," Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) wrote in a statement.

The Democrat's statement came several weeks after Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) called for VA to stop the system's deployment in Walla Walla.

The congresswoman stated that the system is faulty, and the VA must make critical improvements regarding productivity, patient safety, and morale impact before its rollout.

"More than a year after Mann-Grandstaff went live on the system, most of the productivity, patient safety, and morale impacts still have not been resolved. While the system outages have somewhat improved, fundamental problems, especially in pharmacy, have not been addressed," said McMorris Rodgers in a letter to VA Secretary Denis R. McDonough.

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