​​VA revises timeline for $16B Cerner EHR rollout, taps new project leaders

The Department of Veterans Affairs is planning to pick up deployment of its $16 billion Cerner EHR system in early 2022 after the project was paused earlier this year because of inadequate training and safety concerns. 

The VA launched a strategic review of its EHR modernization program in March and paused deployment activities for the project in April. The department initially went live on the EHR in October 2020 at its first site, Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center in Spokane, Wash., but employees expressed usability and productivity concerns with the new system. 

The VA's new plan for the rollout addresses challenges documented in its Comprehensive Lessons Learned report, which it submitted to Congress after finishing its strategic review of the EHR modernization program. The new management approach addresses best practices in communication, risk management, business process and customer experience, according to a Dec. 1 news release. 

The department has started pre-deployment activities in two Veterans Integrated Services Networks, which comprise a VA health system serving Ohio, Indiana and Michigan, as well as the VA Northwest Health Network in Vancouver, Wash. The VA plans to achieve widespread deployment of the EHR throughout its hospitals network in early 2024. 

In addition to the revised schedule, the department also adjusted leadership positions for the project, creating a program executive director for EHR integration role, which will oversee the cross-organizational and functional coordination of the project's communication and implementation strategies. The VA tapped Terry Adirim, MD, to fill the role; Dr. Adirim currently serves as principal deputy assistant secretary of defense and acting assistant secretary of defense for health affairs. 

The VA also expanded the project's office of the functional champion position, which will ensure all patient safety concerns are resolved and bridge any divides between IT, EHR vendor and care delivery teams. The department also created a new deputy CIO for EHR role, which will oversee technology integration functions for the program and communication with tech staff at local care sites.

Cerner will continue maintaining on-site support at Mann-Grandstaff and remains committed to VA leadership, providers, staff and veterans, Brian Sandager, general manager and senior vice president of Cerner Government Services, said in a statement shared with Becker's. 

"Cerner will continue partnering with VA to gain access to the site, ensuring the program continues to move forward successfully. Given today’s announcement, Cerner shares VA's sentiment that the new governance and leadership will positively impact the program," he said. "We are on a path to deliver world class healthcare for our nation's veterans and look forward to advancing our partnership and additional deployments in 2022.”

 

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