VA delays first go-live of Cerner EHR at Spokane center

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The Department of Veterans Affairs has decided to delay the first go-live deployment for its $10 billion Cerner electronic health record system, which was originally slated for next month.

In March, the agency had planned to roll out the EHR at the Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center in Spokane, Wash. However, the VA announced that it is delaying plans to commence end user training scheduled for this week, which may impact “going live” next month at Mann-Grandstaff.

“After rigorous testing of our new EHR, the department will need more time to complete the system build and ensure clinicians and other users are properly trained on it,” according to a statement from Christina Mandreucci, VA press secretary. “We believe we are 75-80 percent complete in this regard and will be announcing a revised ‘go-live’ schedule in the coming weeks.”

In response to the delay, two Republican congressman with legislative authority for the VA said they “stand in full support” of VA Secretary Robert Wilkie’s decision.

“With a project as complex, costly and impactful as this one, the worst thing VA could do is jump the gun,” according to a written statement from Rep. Phil Roe, MD (R-Tenn.), ranking member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, and Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), ranking member of the Subcommittee on Technology Modernization.

“We hope that VA will be able to move forward with the complete Cerner system in Spokane to deliver the best possible veteran experience, and we look forward to continuing the committee’s oversight of this project to achieve a fully interoperable health records system for the millions of men and women who have served,” added the lawmakers.

Banks and Roe said they applauded the agency for “taking the time to get this right” and recognizing that more training and preparation is required to successfully deploy the EHR.

Last year, the two congressmen expressed a similar view that “the worst thing VA could do at this juncture is rush the project along,” emphasizing that “slow and steady wins the race.”

“Members of Congress have urged the department not to rush its electronic health record modernization efforts,” added Mandreucci. “VA leaders have heard that call and are proceeding deliberately and thoughtfully to adhere to the project’s 10-year timeline, which calls for a rolling implementation schedule through 2027.”

According to the VA, it will take a decade to fully implement its new Cerner system, and the program will continue to evolve as technological advances are made. The VA’s approach to the acquisition is to deploy the EHR at initial operating capability sites to identify challenges and then correct them.

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