The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is set to release the results of its “assess and address” pause for its Electronic Health Records Modernization (EHRM) program in the coming weeks, according to a VA official.

During a Feb. 28 hearing, Dr. Shereef Elnahal, under secretary for health at the VA, told the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs that his agency will soon release not only the work of the VA during the pause, but also the work of Oracle Cerner, which is building the EHRM system.

“We called it the ‘assess and address’ period because that’s exactly what we’ve been engaged in diligently since we announced it,” Dr. Elnahal said. “We’re looking specifically at the system configuration issues, but also people and process matters that led to our need to disclose to tens of thousands of veterans that their care may have been delayed or affected by the implementation of this system. And we took that responsibility very seriously.”

“In the coming weeks, we’re going to be releasing the results of that work, to include not only Oracle Cerner’s responsibility to fix the configuration of the system, but also our own, and making sure our people and process matters continue to improve,” he added. “We’re very dedicated to that.”

The VA made the decision in 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.

Just last month, the VA also 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.

The VA has been the first to admit that its EHRM program has not met expectations over the last year. The program has faced underreported costs, deficiencies in training, and diminished employee morale. Additionally, VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) reports have revealed the program has resulted in cases of patient harm and patient care issues.

Committee Chairman Mike Bost, R-Ill., also made note during the hearing that “the EHR Modernization program is on its fourth director in five years,” following the departure of Terry Adirim, the program executive director of the EHRM Integration Office, on Feb. 25.

However, the VA plans to continue to work closely with Oracle Cerner to resolve issues with the system’s performance, maximize usability for VA healthcare providers, and ensure its users are served by an effective records system that supports their needs.

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