VA to delay rollout of Cerner EHR system, citing interoperability issues

Remaining tasks include additional development of interfaces between the existing EHR, Cerner’s platform and the general IT infrastructure of the VA, which could run through the end of April, according to a news report.
By Nathan Eddy
11:59 AM

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs announced it has delayed the rollout of its planned electronic health record modernization at the Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center in Spokane, Washington, which was due to go live at the end of March.

According to a report in the government IT news site FCW, the EHR system, based on Cerner’s Millennium software, requires more work before it is ready to go live.

The remaining tasks include additional development of interfaces between the existing EHR, Cerner’s platform, and the general IT infrastructure of the VA, which could run through the end of April, FCW reported.

"After rigorous testing of our new EHR, the department will need more time to complete the system build and ensure clinicians and other users are properly trained on it," said VA spokesperson Christina Mandreucci, according to a statement emailed to FCW. "We believe we are 75-80% complete in this regard and will be announcing a revised 'go-live' schedule in the coming weeks."

The project is part of a $16 billion EHR modernization push by the VA which saw the establishment of the Office of Electronic Health Record Modernization, tasked to oversee the implementation of the same EHR system being deployed by the Department of Defense.

The project has three main goals, among them the implementation of a EHR solution that is interoperable with DOD and community care providers, enabling the seamless sharing of records from active duty and beyond.

The new EHR platform should also be able to provide Veterans and clinicians with a complete picture of patients’ medical history, enabling connections between military service and health outcomes through data analytics.

Finally, the EHR system is designed to offer an “improved and consistent patient scheduling experience” across all VA medical facilities and community care partners.

"VA should take the time it needs to get this $16 billion dollar implementation right, but it needs to be transparent with Congress," Rep. Mark Takano, D-California, chairman of the House VA Committee, said in a statement to FCW. "We are all charged to work on behalf of our nation’s veterans—a short-term delay is far better than rushing through a critical EHR transition that will strongly impact veterans’ lives."

In June, DoD and VA officials announced the creation of a special office, the Federal Electronic Health Record Modernization office, to help centralize decision-making as the VA makes the multi-billion dollar EHR upgrade.

The lack of interoperability between DoD and VA remains a major stumbling block for the EHR system, which is slated to go live across care sites by 2028.

In addition, VHA medical facilities have a cumulative medical document backlog equivalent to more than five miles of stacked paper, with nearly 600,000 electronic files dating back to 2016, according to an OIG audit from August 2019.

Nathan Eddy is a healthcare and technology freelancer based in Berlin.
Email the writer: nathaneddy@gmail.com
Twitter: @dropdeaded209