The House Appropriations Committee questioned today why the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is requesting $2.6 billion in funds for Fiscal Year 2021 for the VA’s Office of Electronic Health Records (EHR)— $1 billion more than the FY2020 request— when the EHR Modernization go-live date was delayed and wants better communication on information from the agency to avoid delays and cost more money.

The VA delayed its EHR modernization launch at a Spokane, Washington facility indefinitely on Feb. 10 and explained that the modernization process was only 75 to 80 percent complete and needed more time to finish building the EHR system and train clinicians.

“This is an issue that should have come up well before one month before the go-live date,” Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-N.Y., said. “None of the challenges that have arisen should have been a surprise, least of all to Congress.”

Assistant Secretary of Enterprise Integration Melissa Glynn stated during the hearing that the new go-live date for EHR modernization will be in April and stressed that VA is still operating within the 18-month timeline requirement established to get the Spokane facility running.

“You cautioned us not to rush,” Dr. Glynn offered, later adding “early next month, we’ll have the system completely built.”

Executive Director for the Office of EHR Modernization John Windom told the Congress members that he and his office would be willing to speak with representatives and their staffs as often as they need to make communication on the project stronger and said he understands the importance of communication.

“The men and women who have served our nation deserve no less than a seamless and problem-[free] system,” Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., said.

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Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.