The US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is pushing further deployments of the system to June 2023 “to address challenges” and make sure it’s functioning optimally.
Among the challenges: Safety concerns “voluminous enough and prevalent enough” to prompt the VA to disclose to 41,500 veterans enrolled in Washington, Idaho, Oregon, Montana, and Ohio that their care “may have been impacted as a result of the system’s deployment as it is currently configured,” VA Undersecretary for Health Shereef Elnahal said in a news conference.
The plan was to launch in the first quarter of 2023 in Western Washington, Michigan, and Ohio. But in a recent release, the VA said an investigation had found several technical and system issues, such as latency and slowness, and problems with patient scheduling, referrals, medication management, and other types of medical orders. During this “assess and address” period, the VA says, it will correct outstanding issues—especially those that may have patient safety implications—before restarting deployments at other VA medical centers.
“Right now, the Oracle Cerner [EHR] system is not delivering for veterans or VA health care providers—and we are holding Oracle Cerner and ourselves accountable to get this right,” said VA Deputy Secretary Donald Remy, who has oversight over the EHR program. “We are delaying all future deployments of the new EHR while we fully assess performance and address every concern. Veterans and clinicians deserve a seamless, modernized health record system, and we will not rest until they get it.”
The modernized EHR, intended to replace the Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture (VistA), has been plagued by problems from the very first launch in October 2020 at Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center and associated clinics in the Northwest. Deputy Inspector David Case, of the Office of Inspector General (OIG), reported to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs on oversight between 2020 and July 2021. Among other things, the OIG identified problems with the infrastructure and with users’ experiences. Clinical and administrative staff at Mann-Grandstaff and a Columbus clinic shared their frustration with OIG personnel about the “significant system and process limitations that raised concerns about the continuity of and prompt access to quality patient care.”
For example, according to an OIG report from July 2022, the new EHR sent thousands of orders for medical care to an “undetectable location, or unknown queue” instead of the intended location. The mis-delivery caused 149 patient harm events.