- House representatives recently announced plans to form an oversight panel to ensure the $10 billion VA Cerner EHR implementation goes smoothly, according to the Military Times.
House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Phil Roe (R-TN) formally announced the decision to develop a new subcommittee devoted to overseeing the EHR implementation on June 21.
“As the department embarks on the country’s largest EHR overhaul, we must ensure veterans and taxpayers are protected during the transition,” Roe said in a statement. “Having personally gone through a transition to a new health record system in private practice, I know how much potential there is for a project like this to be a huge and expensive disruption.”
“Congress has a responsibility to conduct rigorous oversight throughout every step of the process,” added Roe.
The new oversight panel will ensure the new EHR system achieves seamless interoperability with the Department of Defense’s (DoD’s) own MHS GENESIS EHR system, which is also supported by a Cerner platform.
Ranking VA Committee member Representative Tim Walz, (D-MN) commended plans to form an oversight committee as a necessary step toward successfully implementing an efficient and effective EHR system capable of maintaining a high level of quality care at VA care sites.
“Whether it is preventing disruptions in patient care, protecting the privacy of veterans, or ensuring American taxpayer dollars are invested responsibly and in a way that will improve healthcare delivery for veterans, it is important Congress is well-suited to hold VA accountable every step of the way,” said Walz in a statement.
Last month, the House passed the Veterans’ Electronic Health Record Modernization Oversight Act of 2017 (HR 4245) to allow Congress to receive certain documents related to the Cerner EHR implementation process including project timelines, costs, the health strategic architecture plan, and the transition plan for implementing updated architecture.
Under HR 4245, VA officials would need to send Congress regularly quarterly updates about the EHR implementation.
In addition to Roe and Walz, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Committee Chairman Jack Bergman (R-MI), and Ranking Member Annie Kuster (D-NH) introduced the legislation in October 2017.
“As chairman and a physician, I know firsthand the value an effective electronic health records system plays in providing patients with quality health care,” said Roe in a public statement.
“The transition to the Cerner system aims to achieve seamless interoperability with the Department of Defense (DoD), which has been one of my priorities since coming to Congress, and will be one of the largest projects the department has been tasked with implementing,” he continued.
The oversight committee will track the implementation to ensure it goes more smoothly than the MHS GENESIS implementation. MHS GENESIS EHR implementations at Initial Operating Capability (IOC) care sites in the Pacific Northwest were deemed “not operationally effective or suitable,” according to an Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOT&E) report released in April.
OT&E Director Robert F. Behler explained that users successfully performed only 56 percent of the 197 tasks used as Measures of Performance. Clinicians and administrative staff felt most of the EHR system’s critical deficiencies were potential patient safety threats, user surveys showed.
Officials also found fault with physician workflows and found many users questioned the accuracy of the health data exchanged between external systems and MHS GENESIS. These problems with health data accuracy could pose a threat to patient safety.
While VA officials estimated its EHR implementation would be more streamlined than DoD’s implementation, the oversight committee will help to ensure the process is efficient.