WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (Kan.) – the lead Republican on the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs – today introduced legislation that would prevent the continued implementation of the Oracle Cerner electronic health record (EHR) system at Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities until significant improvements are made to the system.
Sen. Moran was joined by Senators John Boozman (Ark.), Bill Cassidy, (La.), Mike Rounds (S.D.), Thom Tillis (N.C.), Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.), Kevin Cramer (N.D.), Tommy Tuberville (Ala.), Jim Risch (Idaho), Mike Crapo (Idaho), Mike Braun (Ind.) and Steve Daines (Mont.) in introducing this legislation.
The EHR system was implemented at five medical centers since 2020 and has been a factor in the loss of veterans’ lives as well as decreased productivity and employee morale. Additionally, the system has faced system outages, put nearly 150 patients at risk and more than doubled in cost. After the VA Inspector General (IG) released a report in July outlining major concerns with the new system, VA paused further implementation of the EHR system. That pause was later extended until June of 2023.
The Department of Veterans Affairs EHRM Standardization and Accountability Act would establish a rigorous list of requirements that VA must meet before the EHR system can be implemented at more VA medical centers.
“Veterans seeking help at VA medical centers should receive nothing but exemplary care,” said Sen. Moran. “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. 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. Without these changes, it would be irresponsible to continue implementing the system at additional VA centers.”
“While significant investments have been made to modernize the VA’s electronic health records system, the department continues to struggle with implementation,” said Sen. Boozman. “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.”
“An electronic health record, and particularly a veteran’s electronic record, should make patients safer and improve the care,” said Dr. Cassidy.
“Efforts to modernize the VA electronic health record system are long overdue,” said Sen. Tillis. “While I support these efforts, the transition to a modern electronic health record is overbudget and behind schedule, and I am proud to introduce this legislation that will increase transparency and accountability while ensuring we provide the high-quality, timely care our veterans deserve going forward.”
“It’s time for the VA to enter the 21st century by implementing a robust and integrated electronic health records system,” said Sen. Cramer. “However, doing so should not come at the expense of veteran safety. Our bill would ensure VA medical centers are properly equipped and prepared to initiate system upgrades.”
“Our veterans deserve the best health care in the world,” said Sen. Tuberville. “This legislation would improve and modernize the way the VA manages veterans’ health records, which will help them get the care they need. I’m proud to join with Ranking Member Moran on this bill, and I will continue to work to improve the VA for every veteran.”
“Our nation’s veterans have gone through too much to see delays in services due to technology errors,” said Sen. Risch. “The VA in Spokane, which serves North Idaho veterans, has experienced significant slowdowns. While the VA appropriately postponed the deployment of the Oracle Cerner system to other facilities, Congress must intervene to protect the health care needs of our veterans. The Electronic Health Record Modernization Improvement Act will increase oversight of the electronic health record system and ensure no further sites go online until these burdensome issues are sorted.”
“America’s veterans deserve to know the systems housing their medical records are safe, reliable and user-friendly,” said Sen. Crapo. “Numerous outstanding issues remain with the EHRM program, and it would be irresponsible to support its continued rollout until all concerns have been properly and adequately addressed.”
“Montana veterans put everything on the line in service to our nation – we need to ensure that their access to health care is not jeopardized by the Biden administration’s inability to properly implement the EHRM program,” said Sen. Daines. “These failures need to be swiftly and thoroughly addressed so the VA can fulfill its commitment to serve our American heroes.”
Sen. Moran addressed the shortcomings of the EHR system during a Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing earlier this month and questioned Neil C. Evans, VA Acting Program Executive Director, EHR Modernization Integration Office.
The centers currently utilizing the EHR system are located in Spokane, Wash.; Walla Walla, Wash.; Columbus, Ohio; White City, Ore.; and Roseburg, Ore.
Sen. Moran and Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) introduced the VA Electronic Health Record Transparency Act last year to increase transparency around the Electronic Health Record Modernization program. This legislation was signed into law in July.
Full bill text can be found HERE.
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