The Department of Veterans Affairs has completed a review of its $ 16 billion plan to overhaul its electronic health records system after hearing concerns from staff in Spokane, Wash., Where the new system has been put into service for the first time.
Staff at Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center in Spokane complained about technical issues with the new system that were affecting patient care and employee morale. When he took office, VA Secretary Denis McDonough announced a 12-week hiatus from the deployment to review the issues. The review is complete and McDonough is expected to announce changes to the deployment process within the next week.
“The strategic review is complete and has already helped chart the way forward,” McDonough said at a press conference on June 30. “We are about to finalize the next steps, including changes to the deployment effort.”
The VA began the process of overhauling its electronic health record system in 2017. He awarded a contract to Cerner Corp., a technology company in Kansas City, Missouri. The new system is said to be able to share patient data transparently with the Department of Defense, which could limit problems when a soldier leaves the military.
The new system went into service in Spokane in October. A bipartisan group of lawmakers wrote McDonough in February, saying they had heard employees there talk about “significant technical and organizational challenges” that were affecting productivity and patient care, among other issues. They asked McDonough to delay the deployment until the issues were resolved.
The department was supposed to deploy the new system at a second site in Columbus, Ohio, but it’s unclear when the deployment will continue.
“What I can say is that we’ll be able to take a few more first steps in Columbus and elsewhere, but I want to go through the entire Strategic Review before we take any action for commissioning. “McDonough said. âWe need to make sure that we test and refine our technology further if we have to before we go into production. ”
McDonough said that during the review, the VA dug into the technical issues “very aggressively.” He pledged at last week’s press conference to stick with Cerner’s technology. Going forward, McDonough wants to make sure contractors working on the new system listen to VA healthcare providers and respond to their concerns quickly.
Lawmakers applauded the end of the strategic review and called on the VA to be transparent with its findings.
âTransparency around the strategic review findings and accountability within the VA will be vital in turning the ship around,â said Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., Whose district includes Spokane VA Hospital. .
During the press conference, McDonough criticized the Senate for its delay in confirming President Joe Biden’s candidate for VA deputy secretary. Congress dictated that the assistant secretary was supposed to lead the electronic health record project.
Biden has appointed Donald Remy, COO and General Counsel of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, to fill the role. Senator Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., Blocks Remy’s confirmation. She told the Senate in June that she would delay the confirmation process for Remy and the other VA candidates until McDonough responds to her requests for information on a bill.
McDonough said he was in regular contact with Blackburn, and she said she plans to continue the confirmation process.
“I can’t help but note that this process is supposed to be led by the Senate-confirmed assistant secretary,” McDonough said of the electronic health record project. “Congress has asked the Assistant Secretary to oversee the budget in this process, so I think it’s reasonable for the Senate to confirm this.”
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