Lawmakers seek $1.3B boost for VA's Oracle EHR system

In a bipartisan budget package, lawmakers are asking for more than $1.3 billion for the Department of Veterans Affairs' Oracle EHR system, NextGov reported March 4. 

The proposed fiscal year 2024 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, part of a legislative effort to prevent a partial government shutdown on March 8, introduces a condition to make 25% of the funding for the VA EHR modernization project dependent upon increased transparency from the VA on the project.

According to the publication, the condition requires VA Secretary Denis McDonough to provide detailed information to the House and Senate appropriations committees regarding ongoing efforts to address performance issues and delays in deploying the Oracle Cerner EHR.

Initially, in May 2018, the VA entered into a 10-year, $10 billion contract with Cerner to modernize its existing EHR system, aligning it with the Pentagon's Cerner EHR system. Oracle acquired Cerner in December 2021, and the contract was extended in May 2023, incorporating performance metrics to encourage software improvements. However, the modernization project has faced challenges, including cost overruns, patient safety concerns, and technical issues, leading to a pause in April 2023 for a comprehensive "program reset." 

The Oracle Health EHR system has been deployed at only five VA medical facilities thus far. 

The fiscal year 2023 Consolidated Appropriations Act similarly withheld 25% of the EHR modernization program's budget until Mr. McDonough provided information on a previous October 2022 EHR system delay. This year's funding condition requires the VA secretary to submit a comprehensive report to Congress detailing the status of issues leading to the announced reset in April, according to the news outlet.

Moreover, the new budget mandates Mr. McDonough to furnish relevant congressional committees with a report on the status of "measurable operational metrics" guiding the decision to resume EHR deployments. Additionally, he must certify in writing whether the system is stable, ready and optimized for further deployment at VA sites. If not, he is to provide an estimate of the timeline required to initiate further deployments.

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