VA resumes EHR modernization efforts following COVID-19 delays

por John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter | August 12, 2020
Business Affairs Health IT
The VA has resumed its EHR modernization program following delays caused by COVID-19.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has resumed its plans to transition facilities to its new EHR system following delays brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The VA has revised its previous schedule for its EHR Modernization program with updated timelines for deployments of the system, the first of which will be implemented at the VA Central Ohio Healthcare System in Columbus in August and followed by the Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center in Spokane, Washington in October.

“After a period of delay during which VAMCs focused on their response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are pleased to have our Electronic Health Record Modernization team resume activities with our facilities to move forward with a program that will transform VA and enhance veteran care,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie in a statement. “As we implement the new EHR solution at these facilities, we will continue to prioritize the safety of our veterans and our staff by following guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”
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Designed by Cerner, the new EHR solution will replace the VA’s current Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture (VistA) and allow providers to store patient information and track all aspects of veterans care. It will do this by applying technology deployed at the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), medical facilities and thousands of providers worldwide. This will enhance care across the VA’s integrated network, which includes VA facilities, community providers and DoD facilities.

The program is also expected to facilitate easier, faster and safer coordination; greater transparency for entire care teams; and added capabilities for meeting special needs of veterans, VA clinicians, and community-care partners.

“EHRM is the largest health IT modernization effort in history, and to succeed we knew we needed the most innovative companies in the private sector to join us,” Travis Dalton, president of Cerner Government Services, told HCB News in 2018. “We chose partners to address areas specific to their expertise to supplement our staffing capabilities and to honor our commitment to VA and our nation’s veterans.”

The new timeline for the program will preserve its 10-year implementation schedule, as well as its overall cost estimates. Following its implementation in Columbus and Spokane, the department will deploy the EHR solution at select Midwest facilities that range from small to large sites in Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky and Michigan.

The contract between the VA and Cerner was signed in 2018 and is one of the largest in the federal government, with a ceiling of $10 billion over 10 years.

The program has attracted a number of partners, including HCTec, Forward Thinking Innovations LLC, ProSource 360, Leidos, Guidehouse, Accenture, Henry Schein Inc., AbleVets LLC, MicroHealth, and additional small businesses.

The VA is seeking to be flexible in its planning going forward and will consider other factors that may require modifying the order of facilities that will implement the new system.

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