Lawmaker Urges VA EHR Implementation Delay Amid Patient Safety Concerns

The VA’s EHR Implementation received critiques regarding cases of delayed and inaccurate prescription data. Despite patient safety concerns, the system is still scheduled to go live.

Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05) has called on the Department of Veterans Affairs to delay its forthcoming EHR implementation at Walla Walla VA Medical Center due to patient safety concerns.

The congresswoman stated that the Cerner Electronic Health Record Modernization (EHRM) system is faulty, and the VA must make critical improvements regarding productivity, patient safety, and morale impact prior to 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.

“Veterans in my district continue to struggle with delayed and erroneous prescriptions, as well as bottlenecks in referrals to specialists or community care.”

In addition, she stated that the EHR system’s issues have only hindered care for Eastern Washington veterans by creating additional obstacles for providers.

“Bottom line, the Electronic Health Record Modernization (EHRM) transition is still making life harder on veterans and VA providers, not easier, and until these problems are fixed, its continued roll-out should be delayed,” McMorris Rodgers said.

The Washington lawmaker said she refuses to permit the system to go into effect and will continue to delay its release until VA fixes all unresolved issues.

Yet, the EHRM system is still scheduled to be released in the next few weeks at Walla Walla VAMC.

McMorris Rodgers encouraged McDonough to visit Eastern Washington to see what she said are the persistent issues veterans and staff confront.

Over the past year, McMorris Rodgers has addressed several concerns with the EHRM system. In March 2020, she addressed “danger and unacceptable” delays in prescription filling, patient portal issues, and EHR training shortcomings.

“I have one report of a VA doctor ordering a veteran two medications, but he received 15 erroneous medications,” the congresswoman explained in the March letter. “I have multiple reports of prescriptions being delayed, which in one case caused a veteran to suffer withdrawal. These impacts are dangerous and unacceptable.

The challenges not only impact patients but also staff members who McMorris Rodgers reported have said they are not receiving support throughout this process.

“Nurses who go to work every day to serve our veterans should not be driven to tears because software, which was intended to be an improvement, makes their jobs more difficult,” McMorris Rodgers wrote. “While the staffing surge in early 2020 to prepare for the EHR was a positive development, it now seems those staffing gains have all but evaporated.

Studies have suggested that EHR implementation has been a primary cause of physician burnout. Specifically, 31 of primary care physicians reported burnout mainly caused by EHR implementation. 

Physician burnout negatively impacts patient care, decreases patient satisfaction scores, and increases job turnover.

EHR implementation aimed to decrease workplace challenges but instead, it has enhanced stress for physicians.


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