Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, introduced legislation last week that would stop the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) from deploying the Electronic Health Records Modernization (EHRM) program until it makes system improvements.
Sen. Moran, along with 11 other Republican senators, introduced the Department of Veterans Affairs EHRM Standardization and Accountability Act, which would establish a list of requirements that the VA must meet before deploying the EHR system at any other VA medical centers.
The VA has implemented the EHRM program at five medical centers since 2020. The program and its Oracle Cerner system have faced well-publicized challenges, along with patient care issues – which have been flagged by the VA Office of Inspector General (IG).
“Veterans seeking help at VA medical centers should receive nothing but exemplary care,” Sen. Moran said in a press release. “Testimonies from VA staff and veterans as well as numerous troubling IG reports have made it clear that the EHR system is putting veteran patients at risk and creating significant challenges for VA staff.”
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.
Following the pause, the agency’s EHRM Sprint Project Team issued a report last month outlining the next steps for the program. In the report, 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.
“I support Secretary McDonough’s decision to delay the rollout of the EHR system, and this legislation will create a list of requirements VA, in collaboration with its vendor Oracle Cerner, must meet before implementation of the system can resume,” Sen. Moran added. “Without these changes, it would be irresponsible to continue implementing the system at additional VA centers.”
Specifically, the text of the bill says the agency would not be able to deploy the EHRM program at another VA facility until it receives written confirmation from VA Secretary Denis McDonough certifying that it has met certain requirements.
These requirements include achieving “a minimum uptime and system-wide stability standard for the electronic health record system,” as well as the secretary submitting a report to both the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs that details “the completion status of corrections to the customization and configuration of workflow designs related to the electronic health record system.”
“While significant investments have been made to modernize the VA’s electronic health records system, the department continues to struggle with implementation,” said Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., who joined Sen. Moran in introducing the bill. “This legislation would improve transparency and accountability so we can ensure the VA workforce is better prepared to use the upgraded system and ultimately improve the delivery of care to veterans.”
Sens. Moran and Boozman were joined by Sens. Bill Cassidy, R-La., Mike Rounds, R-S.D., Thom Tillis, R-N.C., Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., Jim Risch, R-Idaho, Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, Mike Braun, R-Ind., and Steve Daines, R-Mont., in introducing this legislation.