Senators call for more oversight of $16B VA EHR modernization

Bipartisan legislation introduced last week in the Senate calls for the creation of a third-party committee to closely monitor the Cerner electronic health record implementation by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The VA Electronic Health Record Advisory Committee Act, sponsored by Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.), seeks to establish an 11-member panel comprising healthcare providers, IT and interoperability specialists, as well as veterans receiving care from the agency.

The new committee would “analyze the VA’s strategy for implementation, develop a risk management plan, tour VA facilities as they transition to the new system and ensure veterans, VA employees and medical staff, and other participants have a voice in the process,” according to Blackburn and Tester.

In addition, their bill calls for the committee to meet with the VA Secretary at least twice a year on their analysis and recommendations for the EHR implementation.

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“The new electronic health record system is too important to veterans’ healthcare for the VA to get wrong,” says Tester, ranking member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “Our bill will create another layer of accountability and oversight of the process to make sure the VA rollout does right by the 9 million veterans who will rely on this system.”

The VA’s EHR modernization project—which is currently estimated to cost $16.1 billion over 10 years—has been generating a lot of concern from Congress, with calls for increasing oversight from lawmakers.

Also See: Lawmakers voice concerns about VA’s plans for Cerner EHR

The VA plans to establish a single common EHR system with the Department of Defense by leveraging a shared Cerner Millennium platform to ensure that the two agencies achieve interoperability.

“A crucial part of giving our veterans better care is improving the way DoD and the VA organize their health records,” says Blackburn. “The EHR Advisory Committee will be entirely devoted to ensuring the implementation and transition is done as smoothly as possible. Comprised of professionals who have experience in the healthcare field, as well as veterans currently receiving care at the VA, this committee will have the knowledge and expertise to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of the VA’s services.”

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