(U.S. Senate) – Following sustained pressure from U.S. Senator Jon Tester, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today announced a modified contract agreement with Oracle Cerner on the Electronic Health Record Modernization (EHRM) program.
To deliver VA medical staff and veterans a safer and better functioning electronic health record, the renegotiated contract increases accountability and penalties across a variety of key areas while shortening the contract length and including stronger performance metrics. The new contract also now includes larger fines or “monetary credits” Oracle Cerner will need to pay VA if they do not meet the agreement’s terms.
“I’ve said from day one that the EHRM system has to deliver for veterans, VA medical professionals, and the American taxpayer—and this new contract is a step in that direction,” said Tester, Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “But this is just the start of what’s needed to get this program working in a way deserving of our veterans and taxpayers. That’s why I’ll keep holding VA and Oracle Cerner’s feet to the fire in implementing these changes while we work to pass stronger reforms under my bipartisan EHR RESET Act.”
Chairman Tester has consistently fought to increase the effectiveness and ensure the safety of the new EHR system for veterans and VA medical personnel. From the beginning of the program in 2017 he introduced and passed the law mandating strict reporting to Congress on each phase of the project. He demanded transparency from the Trump Administration during the roll-out of the EHRM program in 2020, and has since repeatedly called on VA and Oracle Cerner to fix challenges with the new system before moving forward at other hospitals and clinics. Continuing his efforts at a Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing last month, the Senator pushed officials to deliver a new and “more favorable” EHRM contract on behalf of taxpayers and veterans.
Following the hearing, he introduced the EHR RESET Act to deliver a complete overhaul of the EHRM program. This includes provisions to restructure, enhance, and strengthen the entire EHRM program while also mandating aggressive reporting to Congress to increase oversight, accountability, and transparency following a series of challenges with the system and program, including those found in VA’s recent EHRM Sprint Report, a review from the Government Accountability Office, and countless VA Office of Inspector General reports. The legislation also included provisions requiring VA to aggressively negotiate new contract terms that better protect taxpayers and strengthen performance enforcement mechanisms and penalties while also developing a “Plan B” should the contract negotiations fail or technology continue to underperform.
Following Tester efforts, VA announced a further overhaul of the EHRM program in April to make the new EHR work more effectively and safely—mirroring critical provisions in the Chairman’s EHR RESET Act.
Last year, Tester also championed the bipartisan, bicameral VA Electronic Health Record Transparency Act to increase transparency and oversight of the EHR project and secured a significant provision in the fiscal year 2023 appropriations law to better protect veterans and taxpayers. That law also included Tester’s bipartisan Department of Veterans Affairs Information Technology Reform Act of 2021, which overhauls the planning and oversight for all large VA IT projects.