Tester Statement Following Damning Watchdog Reports on VA Electronic Health Record Modernization Rollout
U.S. Senator Jon Tester, Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, today released a statement following three damning reports from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Office of Inspector General (OIG) detailing critical patient safety concerns with the roll-out of the new Electronic Health Record Modernization (EHRM) program:
“These reports are unacceptable and make clear the EHRM program is not where it needs to be. For years, I have aggressively pushed VA under the Trump and now the Biden Administrations to address deficiencies and challenges within this program, which can disrupt the delivery of care to our veterans. As Chairman, I’ll continue holding VA and Cerner accountable in making necessary changes before expanding the program elsewhere across the country-to ensure providers can safely deliver our nation’s veterans the care they need and earned.”
The reports detail critical patient safety issues related to the implementation of the EHRM, including medication management concerns, clinical care coordination challenges, and EHR system issue ticketing and tracking. The new EHR has been deployed at Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center in Spokane, WA and its associated clinics. In January, VA delayed the scheduled deployment of EHRM at its second location at the VA Central Ohio Healthcare system in Columbus, OH due to a surge in COVID-19 impacting the Department’s workforce.
A long-time advocate of increasing transparency around the EHRM program, the Senator led the charge in demanding transparency from the Trump Administration in July 2020 on the roll-out of the EHRM program-specifically calling for program evaluation metrics, strategies to bolster access to care during roll-out, the need for provider engagement and training, and accurate cost estimates for the significant upgrades to VA’s physical and information technology infrastructure. To address these and other EHRM challenges, VA Secretary Denis McDonough launched a strategic review under the Biden Administration following a bipartisan, bicameral push by Tester and his colleagues.
At a Committee hearing last year, VA announced an initial set of critical reforms consistent with those championed by Tester to tackle long-standing issues with the planning and deployment of the EHRM system. And in December, VA announced a further restructuring of the program’s management to include new senior leadership personnel.
As part of his ongoing effort to address long-standing issues with the planning and deployment of the new VA system, the Senator introduced bipartisan, bicameral legislation to hold VA accountable and increase the project’s transparency, requiring the VA Secretary to submit periodic reports to Congress on the EHRM’s costs, performance metrics, and outcomes, following a VA OIG report detailing concerns around the deployment of EHRM. Last week, he also successfully secured language in the federal funding bill to ensure accountability for the project.