VA Launches ‘Strategic Review’ of EHR Modernization Program

VA will deploy a “strategic review” following EHR Modernization program concerns from its initial go-live location in Washington.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced it is conducting a strategic review of its Electronic Health Record Modernization (EHRM) system to increase EHR productivity and clinical workflow optimization at Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center in Spokane, WA, and future go-live sites.

VA launched the strategic review after new VA Secretary Denis McDonough’s initial one-month EHRM assessment. The agency said the inspection consists of a full evaluation of the EHRM program to ensure success for all future EHR deployments, VA said.

The review will not exceed 12 weeks, the agency added.

“A successful EHR deployment is essential in the delivery of lifetime, world-class health care for our Veterans,” said McDonough. “After a rigorous review of our most-recent deployment at Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center, it is apparent that a strategic review is necessary. VA remains committed to the Cerner Millennium solution, and we must get this right for Veterans.”

McDonough credited the ability of VA employees to execute the EHR deployment during COVID-19.

“Our dedicated VA professionals continue to work feverishly on this effort even as we maneuver through the complexities and surges of the COVID-19 pandemic,” McDonough said. 

Columbus, Ohio was poised to be the next EHRM implementation location, but VA might revise future deployment locations due to the review.

The review will further examine EHR workflow optimization, the patient portal, data syndication, and the revenue cycle, according to VA.

“Cerner supports the decision by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to conduct a strategic program review,” Brian Sandager, general manager of Cerner Government Services, said in an emailed statement to EHRIntelligence.

“Our number one priority remains the Veterans we serve and delivering solutions that drive the transformation of care across the VA. We are proud of the significant milestones we have achieved including one of the largest health data migrations in history and the deployment of a new joint Health Information Exchange between DOD, VA and their community partners,” Sandager continued.

VA announced the review after a Washington lawmaker penned a letter to VA regarding concerns about the VA’s EHRM system after receiving several patient safety complaints from individuals at Mann-Grandstaff.

In the letter addressed to McDonough, Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash) said Mann-Grandstaff patients have reported “dangerous and unacceptable” delays in prescription filling, along with patient portal issues. Mann-Grandstaff staff members also reported EHR training shortcomings.

VA launched the EHRM system at its initial location at Mann-Grandstaff in October 2020 after three separate delays since November 2019.

“I am hearing an increasing number of complaints and pleas for help coming into my Spokane and Coalville offices,” wrote McMorris Rodgers. “I am getting reports of veterans not receiving their prescriptions when needed or receiving the wrong prescriptions.”

McMorris Rodgers said veteran health records are getting mixed-up with patient records at the Washington-based Fairchild Air Force Base, which also utilizes the Cerner EHR platform.

Furthermore, veterans and their families reported confusion due to the new Cerner patient portal, which was supposed to run parallel to the VA patient portal, My HealtheVet.

The challenges also spread to Mann-Grandstaff EHR users, who said they are not receiving quality support.

The congresswoman recognized that McDonough inherited the program as the VA’s new secretary and he is still evaluating how to accomplish VA objectives.  

“I hope you will always prioritize the interests of the veterans who go to Mann-Grandstaff and other medical centers for their care,” McMorris Rodgers concluded.

McMorris Rodgers penned the letter just over a month after the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) recommended the VA postpone future EHRM deployments until “any resulting critical and high severity test findings are appropriately addressed.”

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