Former VA secretary: Decision to delay Cerner EHR go-live is a 'sign the process is working'

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The Department of Veterans Affairs' recent decision to further delay its Cerner EHR go-live indicates that the agency's feedback and review process is working, according to former VA secretary Anthony Principi.

In a March 11 op-ed for Military Times, Mr. Principi, who also serves as a member of the Cerner Government Advisory Board, explained that VA's decision to push the EHR go-live, which was originally scheduled for March 28 at Spokane, Wash.-based Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center, was not made "lightly" and was informed by collaboration with Cerner.

"VA's process empowers clinicians to provide feedback early and often throughout the process, including the ability to make assessments and adjustments before going live," Mr. Principi wrote. "The decision to delay go-live is a sign the process is working."

Now expected to deploy in July, the $16 billion Cerner EHR system will be interoperable with the Department of Defense's new EHR, which is also being developed in partnership with the Kansas City, Mo.-based EHR vendor. VA previously confirmed the decision to delay the March go-live was based on needing more time to finish building the system in order to properly train staff how to use it.

"Taking the time needed to ensure the solution works properly from day one is the best possible course of action," Mr. Principi wrote. "This approach not only ensures patient safety, security and a functional system for VA healthcare professionals, but it is also the least we owe a veteran population that longs for changes to the way in which VA healthcare is delivered."

Since forming the partnership with Cerner two years ago, VA's EHR modernization project has successfully transferred health records for 23.5 million veterans to a shared data center with the DOD, completed eight national workshops and reached consensus on more than 1,300 design decisions and more than 850 standardized workflows to best meet clinician and patients' needs, according to Mr. Principi.

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