The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced it will delay the rollout of its Electronic Health Records Modernization (EHRM) program at another deployment site as it waits on Oracle-Cerner to address system stability issues.

Terry Adirim, program executive director of the EHRM Integration Office at VA, told the Senate VA Committee on July 20 that the Oracle-Cerner EHR system will not go live in Boise, Idaho on July 23 as planned.

“Today, we made the decision that the system just wasn’t in a place, because of the latency, as well as other pieces that were not in place for us to be confident that we could have a successful deployment,” Adirim told the committee on July 20.

Additionally, Adirim said the VA is not ready to deploy the EHR system at “larger, more complex sites” due to system stability issues. She said the agency wants to give Oracle-Cerner “more time to address those issues before going to the larger medical centers.”

Committee Chairman Jon Tester, D-Mont., said he supports the VA’s decision to delay the rollout in Boise and believes “additional improvements are needed to ensure any future deployments are safe and successful.”

The decision to delay the rollout comes after last week’s VA Office of Inspector General report revealed an Oracle Cerner-designed element of the EHR system resulted in cases of patient harm at the Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center in Spokane, Wash.

“I’ll be blunt: in hindsight, Mann-Grandstaff wasn’t ready to adopt a new electronic health record,” Adirim told the committee. “Planning was inadequate and lacked a thorough assessment of the site’s readiness. And most importantly, in October 2020, VA medical centers were still being seriously impacted by the COVID pandemic.”

VA Chief Information Officer Kurt DelBene explained that the current EHR system’s architecture “is somewhat dated at this point,” as it was built as a traditional client-server architecture as opposed to a more modern multi-tiered cloud capacity system.

“We are working with Oracle-Cerner to get them to do a roadmap for us as to how they would migrate to a more modern architecture,” DelBene said.

Mike Sicilia, the executive vice president at Oracle, said his company plans to move the current Cerner application to a modern cloud data center within the next six to nine months, “which will deliver far better performance and stability for the end user.”

“Candidly, we anticipate that this alone will be the single most important change we make in terms of the current system reliability,” Sicilia said, noting that the transition will be completed “at no extra costs” to the VA or the Department of Defense.

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