VA pausing Cerner's EHR deployment through 2021

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The Department of Veterans Affairs's Cerner EHR pause will last until the end of 2021, Federal News Network reported July 21.

The VA and representatives from Cerner testified during a July 21 Veterans Affairs committee hearing after the latest rollout at Spokane, Wash.-based Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center was delayed amid staff complaints.

The EHR at the Spokane hospital still has bugs, but the VA has "a plan to make a plan to fix the system," said Mike Bost, R-Ill., ranking member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee. 

Some committee members shared their frustration with the rising costs of the rollout.

“I’m not interested in shoveling more money into a flawed program just to keep the paychecks flowing,” said Rep. Matt Rosendale, R-Mont., ranking member of the technology modernization subcommittee. "Last week Secretary McDonough assured the Senate that the technology is fundamentally sound. We’re going to find out. Either that, or it isn’t good for the VA."

Despite concerns from lawmakers, the VA said it's optimistic it can set a new deployment schedule by the end of the year, said Carolyn Clancy, MD, the VA's assistant undersecretary for health for discovery, education and affiliate networks.

The VA will review physical and IT infrastructure, leadership and staffing as factors in the rollout to determine which locations will be ready for the EHR deployment next. The VA isn't sure how many sites will go live or which sites will go next, Dr. Clancy said.

The VA's cost estimate for the rollout is "starting from scratch," Dr. Clancy added.

Difficulties are common in large EHR rollouts, said Brian Sandager, Cerner's general manager. The EHR vendor could have done a better job explaining the EHR's long-term benefits to VA employees, he said. He wants the department to set clearer requirements and performance metrics, Federal News Network reported.

"Cerner takes our responsibility to veterans, service members, taxpayers, and Congress seriously, Mr. Sandager told Becker's. "We were honored to be asked to join [the July 21] hearing. [The] continued success of VA’s [EHR modernization] program will require transparency and an unwavering dedication to do what is right for veterans and the VA providers who passionately serve them. They have waited far too long for a seamless care experience, and we are committed to getting this right."

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