VA Cancels Deployment Schedule For Controversial New Electronic Medical Records Project

Veterans Affairs leaders are completely revising their training and deployment schedule for their controversial electronic medical records modernization project, recognizing the fundamental flaws in the work so far.

But VA Secretary Denis McDonough told lawmakers on Wednesday he had no plans to drop the $ 16 billion plan to use the Cerner Millennium recording platform, a decision made in 2017. by then-President Donald Trump, who had pitched it as the solution to bringing veteran and active-on-call medical records into the same computer system for the first time.

“The mission of [project] has always been about creating a platform that transparently offers the best access and the best results for our veterinarians and the best experience for our providers. The VA’s first implementation of the records… broke that promise, neither for our veterans nor for our suppliers, ”McDonough told members of the Senate Veterans Committee Wednesday.

“But by making changes, we can and will get this effort back on track.”

The electronic records project has come under scrutiny in Congress in recent months, partly because of the cost and scope of the project and partly because of past failures and costly efforts to bring the ministry together. Defense and VA on the same medical records systems.

“For my part, I am fed up with the amount of taxpayer money we are spending on this program with no demonstrated benefit to veterans or VA medical staff,” said committee chair Jon Tester, D -Mountain. “It just can’t go on. We literally worked on this most of my time in Congress, 15 years. “

Last fall, after two years of behind-the-scenes work on data processing and planning, the new VA system went live at Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center in Spokane, Wash.

In a report released last week, the VA Inspector General found the deployment to be a chaotic headache, criticizing “insufficient time for training … challenges with user role assignments and gaps in training. training support “.

McDonough said such reports prompted the department to review plans for change of records over a 12-week period. In a report released to Congress Wednesday, VA investigators acknowledged that significant changes are needed because “veterans and their families are frustrated with the transition.”

This includes addressing “many patient safety concerns and system errors” identified during the deployment of Spokane. McDonough said staff found that all safety issues were immediately corrected, but the potential for harm due to errors in the records raised additional concerns among executives.

Improving patient safety was a key selling point of the overhaul of records, with proponents saying that a better records system would reduce erroneous drug prescriptions and give physicians better visibility across all patient records. patient health.

The internal review of the VA revealed similar difficulties with the formation and implementation of new registration systems in private sector companies, and largely highlighted issues related to how the staff and patients were introduced into the new Cerner system rather than the registration system itself.

Officials have pledged to resolve all outstanding patient safety concerns by the end of this month, before the project progresses further.

The timeline for the rest of the project is less clear. Officials were expected to roll out the new records system at the Columbus, Ohio, VA medical center this summer, with a view to having the entire department’s medical system using the new software by 2028.

Staff from the 374th Surgical Squadron in the Day Surgery Unit enter information into the department's electronic medical record system after surgery on a colleague in May 2018 (Airman John D. Partlow / Air Strength)

Instead, VA officials are now envisioning a “technical-only” deployment of Cerner technology across two of its regional service networks (those encompassing Spokane and Columbus) without any impact on patients or clinicians.

Managers will also abandon previous plans for a scheduled site-by-site deployment of the new system, instead assessing the preparations and readiness of individual installations before putting the new system in place. McDonough did not specify when patients and staff should expect these movements.

“I will not go live on these sites until I have all of our questions answered,” he said.

Senators praised the revamped approach, but lamented the lingering problems with the program.

“The longer we delay, the more challenges we have with this program, the less likely it is that veterans living today will take advantage of this spectacular opportunity,” said Jerry Moran, grading committee member, R-Kansas.

“For this to be considered a success, I think the break was important. We need to produce quality standards for electronic health records, train our VA employees and the practicing medical community. “

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