VA pharmacists say Cerner EHR system increases manual workload

The Department of Veterans Affairs and Oracle executives testified before Congress on May 9 about the ongoing issues associated with the pharmacy functions of its Cerner EHR system that contributed to the death of a veteran in Ohio, The Spokesman Review reported May 9. 

The VA's Cerner EHR system has had several problems with its prescribing and dispensing of medications functions. For instance, a 2022 report found that the system caused some medications to disappear from the system, left outpatient drug orders uncompleted, and allowed nurses to prescribe drugs without reviews or approvals from physicians.

These issues have hindered pharmacists at the Spokane, Wash.-based Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center.

According to a statement from one pharmacist at the Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical facility, the issues with the Cerner system have caused "increased risks due to delays, inefficiencies, vulnerabilities, manual workarounds and the lack of responsiveness from Cerner to identify patient risks."

The pharmacist also said "pharmacy staff must remain in a constant state of hyper-vigilance to recognize and intervene on those risks."

Mike Sicilia, Oracle's executive vice president in charge of the VA project, told Congress he's not surprised staff isn't happy with the system as it is incomplete, but said Oracle has been working quickly to address the problems. 

According to Mr. Sicilia, Oracle has fixed three of the most urgent pharmacy issues in a matter of four months, but Carol Harris, director for information technology and cybersecurity and the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office said only six of 79 change requests made by pharmacists at the Mann-Grandstaff medical center have been addressed in the past two years.

The hearing comes shortly after the VA said it was going to halt all future deployments of the Cerner EHR system until it can address problems with the system at facilities already using it.

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