Tester, Colleagues Demand Update on Roll-Out of New VA Electronic Health Record Modernization Program

Senators: “We are counting on VA to safely and thoughtfully transform the EHR system in order to enhance veterans’ health, improve provider satisfaction, and safeguard taxpayer dollars”

As the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) moves to re-open facilities and services to serve veterans nationwide, U.S. Senators Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) are demanding an update on the roll-out of the new Electronic Health Record Modernization (EHRM) program.

VA is currently undertaking a decade-long transition to bring veterans’ health records into the 21st century by ensuring that veterans’ health information is seamlessly available across the VA and Defense Department health systems. However, implementation of EHRM has faced a series of delays as a result of system readiness, training issues, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Given the multi-billion dollar, multi-year scale of the EHRM program, and its ultimate goal of a comprehensive EHR system that is seamless with the Department of Defense (DOD) and modernizes VA care delivery, it is critical that the Department track and measure progress at every step,” wrote Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Ranking Member Tester and his colleagues to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “We are counting on VA to safely and thoughtfully transform the EHR system in order to enhance veterans’ health, improve provider satisfaction, and safeguard taxpayer dollars. We would like to raise these areas of concern and request additional information so that we may perform appropriate oversight of the EHRM program.”

In preparation for the new EHR system’s deployment at VA health care facilities across the country, the Senators specifically called for significant upgrades to VA’s physical and information technology infrastructure, and measures to better engage VA clinical and support staff in the EHR system implementation.

The Senators continued, “In consultation with its dedicated workforce and experts from the field, the Department must take decisive action to chart a clear path forward, including developing training and staffing plans, addressing infrastructure deficiencies, and implementing an EHR system with the full suite of promised medical and administrative capabilities. Most importantly, VA must develop and publish a set of evaluation criteria and implementation goals so that stakeholders can measure whether there are tangible benefits provided to veterans, medical personnel, and the VA system as a whole.”

In their letter, the Senators also requested that VA identify clear and measurable metrics to assess impacts of the new EHR system, and make it readily available to the public so that VA, Congress, and other stakeholders can measure the program’s progress.

Tester has consistently fought to keep VA on target and transparent in its roll-out of the new EHR system. In April 2019, he introduced the bipartisan VA Electronic Health Record Advisory Committee Act to establish a third-party oversight committee to help monitor the implementation of the new system—the committee would analyze VA’s strategy for implementation and risk management plan to ensure veterans, VA employees and medical staff, and other participants have a voice in the process.

Read the full letter to Secretary Wilkie HERE.