GAO urges VA to pause $16B Cerner EHR rollout, cites need for 'critical tests' 

The Government Accountability Office is recommending the Department of Veterans Affairs pause the implementation of its $16 billion Cerner EHR system to perform "critical" tests before deploying the system at any additional facilities. 

VA went live on the new EHR Oct. 24 at the Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center in Spokane, Wash., without any major reported issues. However, as the rollout continues, the VA's new system could lose strength, according to a February 2021 GAO report, prompting it to recommend the VA "postpone deployment of its new EHR system at planned locations until any resulting critical and high severity test findings are appropriately addressed."

The VA responded to the GAO's report by "concurring in principle," but told FedScoop in a Feb. 11 report that it doesn't intend to stop the rollout, which is scheduled to deploy next at the VA Puget Sound Health Care System in Seattle in the fourth quarter of 2021. 

"[VA] does not plan to stop the launch of [its] new electronic health record system," the department said. "VA appreciates the opportunity to review the recent GAO report regarding the progress of VA’s Electronic Health Record Modernization program and the disposition of test findings in relation to subsequent deployments."

If VA doesn't properly test and evaluate the EHR system before rolling it out at new locations, the system may not operate the way it was intended, the GAO report said. However, the VA said its current rate of testing and risk mitigation strategy is adequate for the project. 

VA has faced previous delays with the rollout due to both issues with system performance and need for more testing as well as needing to pivot focus to its response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

VA said it is "well-positioned" to keep moving forward with the rollout and is "taking every precaution to deliver a safe and effective system for [its] clinicians and users." 

Cerner declined Becker's comment request for the report and directed questions to the VA, which had no further comment.


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