VA Revitalizes Plan For EHR System Rollout

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Officials implemented new positions to help streamline and coordinate EHR system implementations following an arduous initial deployment.

The Department of Veterans’ Affairs formally launched its revamped plan to modernize its electronic health records this week following extensive reviews surrounding the new system’s rollout. 

Announced on Dec. 1, VA officials plan on implementing the bevy of reviews documented in the Comprehensive Lessons Learned report on the EHR program that was submitted to Congress earlier this year.

The revitalized EHR system will emphasize coordinating EHR records with partners like the Department of Defense. 

“We will do everything we can to get electronic health records right for Veterans and our health care staff, with patient safety being the key driver and nonnegotiable,” VA Deputy Secretary Donald M. Remy said in a statement. “I have incorporated the lessons learned I received during my recent meetings with our team at Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center in  Spokane, Washington, into this new way forward. Under my direction, VA is refining EHR governance and management structures to establish additional rigor and oversight.”

The revised rollout for EHR systems across the department is planned for early 2024. 

Some of the new structural features of the updated EHR system will include improved customer experience, risk management, and system development lifecycle management. The VA will also establish new positions, including a program executive director, to support the new EHR integration. The PED will report to the VA deputy secretary and oversee cross-organizational communication and EHR implementation strategies. 

Terry Adirim, the Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs at the Defense Health Agency, will serve as the inaugural PED.

The VA has struggled with efficiently rolling out an intuitive EHR system. Execution woes under a contract valued at $16 billion include a lack of standardization, and about two thirds of VA staff considered quitting their roles within the agency amid the new EHR system deployment. 

This initial system, developed by technology company Cerner, was implemented at the Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Clinic in 2020. Staff at Mann-Grandstaff overwhelmingly found the system to worsen their job satisfaction, largely attributed to poor implementation. 

While the VA will continue to work with Cerner on the EHR platform, a new management structure, specifically seen in a “strengthened” Office of the Functional Champion, will ideally help streamline rollout plans and improve the user experience.