VA's $16B Cerner rollout: Go-live delay, leadership change & 14 more things to know for 2021

The Department of Veterans Affairs said in July that it was pausing its EHR rollout with Cerner for the rest of the year while it reevaluates the cost of the launch, its training program and more. 

Here are 14 events that occurred over the last six months with the rollout.

March 19: The VA said it would launch a review of its rollout after the Government Accountability Office recommended the department pause the rollout to perform "critical" tests before deploying the system at more facilities.

March 25: VA Secretary Denis McDonough told lawmakers he was concerned about the productivity of the VA's Cerner EHR transition and the potential of the $16 billion project going over budget.

April 14: The VA paused EHR deployment activities until a strategic review of the project was completed and shared with Congress.

April 28: Mr. McDonough visited Spokane, Wash.-based Mann-Grandstaff Medical Center after he heard concerns that the EHR adoption was causing distress for veterans and hospital staff.

April 29: The VA posted a contractor listing seeking a vendor to gather information on EHR design, data capabilities, delivery and acquisition planning.

May 26: A report from the Office of Inspector General found that the VA's EHR modernization budget was underestimated by about $1 billion to $2.6 billion, as the budget didn't account for the physical infrastructure costs of the project.

June 8: The Biden administration recommended $2.7 billion for the VA EHR modernization program with Cerner for the upcoming fiscal year. The $2.7 billion budget is in addition to the $4.8 billion set aside for the department's Office of Information and Technology. 

June 10: Richard Stone, MD, who served as the acting undersecretary for health at the Veterans Health Administration and oversaw the VA's EHR rollout, was set to step down in mid-July.

The VA and Defense Department set up to test their single, interoperable Cerner EHR system for the first time since the agencies began working on the program six years ago.

June 17: The OIG reported that the VA's EHR troubles ran deeper than its Cerner deployment. The report revealed that six of the seven VA hospitals reviewed weren't filing patient records into EHRs properly, among several other inadequacies.

July 1: Lawmakers voiced their concern about the budget management of the VA's IT modernization initiative at a House Veterans Affairs Technology Modernization Subcommittee.

The GAO said the EHR launch with Cerner might be jeopardized if the VA didn't act on their recommendations. 

July 14: The VA said it was scrapping its Cerner EHR deployment timeline as lawmakers decipher what went wrong. In a hearing before the Senate VA Committee, Mr. McDonough said the department discovered "numerous patient safety concerns and system errors" with Cerner's EHR program. Mr. McDonough said the hiccups the rollout has encountered were not the fault of the VA's hospital staff, but the missteps of VA and Cerner leadership.

July 21: The VA said it was pausing its EHR rollout with Cerner until the end of the month. The VA will review physical and IT infrastructure, leadership and staffing as factors in the rollout to determine which locations will be best suited for EHR deployment next. 

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