The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has issued a new report that recommends specific solutions to improve its Electronic Health Records Modernization (EHRM) program, following its “assess and address” pause for the program.

The report comes from the EHRM Sprint Project Team, an enterprise-wide team the VA established to assess what needed to be fixed in the program before future deployments.

The VA made the decision last October to delay further deployments of its Oracle Cerner EHR system until June 2023. The purpose of this pause was to “assess and address” concerns with the system, performance, and functionality for veterans and VA healthcare personnel.

“We acknowledge that the progress of this project has not met veteran or VA expectations,” Undersecretary for Health at the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) Shereef Elnahal and Acting Program Executive Director for the EHRM Integration Office (EHRM IO) Neil Evans wrote in the new report.

Now that the Sprint Team’s report is complete, the VA said it is pursuing the recommended solutions to ensure it is “fully ready” for the EHR system’s next deployment.

The report recommends specific solutions for issues such as patient care, which have been flagged by the VA Office of Inspector General (OIG). Some of these solutions include:

  • “Accuracy, enterprise standardization, and reliability of data collected for upload to the new system in Data Collection Workbooks. This includes extra checks to ensure that the right data is uploaded.
  • Management of clinical and administrative orders. This includes ensuring that when a VA employee needs to place an order for a veteran, they can easily find the right order and it goes where it needs to go.
  • Standardization of EHR Naming conventions, including for locations, to ease cognitive burden and better support VA’s enterprise scale.”

The report notes that the VA has already completed some of the solutions, while in other cases, the solutions may take many months to put in place, “so we’re pursuing interim solutions.”

The VA noted that it is developing an enhanced Enterprise Site Readiness dashboard and related assessment methods to provide increased visibility and inform leadership decision-making.

Additionally, the agency noted that it wants to return to baseline productivity at the current sites where the EHR system is deployed, before rolling it out elsewhere.

“Deployment decisions for future sites should be informed by success in addressing these causes and evidenced by improvement in operations at current facilities,” the report says.

Last month, the VA announced it would delay a scheduled go-live of the EHR system at Ann Arbor Healthcare System facilities – the first Level 1 site that was scheduled to go live in July 2023.

However, the VA confirmed the nearby VA Saginaw Healthcare System’s implementation is still on track for June 17, 2023, and that it is “closely” monitoring the site’s readiness.

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Grace Dille
Grace Dille
Grace Dille is MeriTalk's Assistant Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.