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ICYMI: After Senator Murray Urges Caution, VA Delays Electronic Health Record Rollout at Spokane Medical Center – MORE HERE

Senator Murray: “I expect the issues we have heard about at Spokane VAMC to be resolved immediately.”

***WATCH VIDEO OF SENATOR MURRAY’S REMARKS HERE***

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, during a Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing on VA electronic health records, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), a senior member of the committee, pressed Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Denis McDonough and other VA leaders about issues with the rollout of the Electronic Health Record Modernization (EHRM) program at Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center (VAMC) in Spokane. The new EHR program, which is being piloted at Mann-Grandstaff VAMC, uses Cerner’s Electronic Health Records (EHR) system.

During the hearing, Senator Murray questioned Secretary McDonough and VA leaders on patient safety in light of reports of veterans receiving incorrect medications, the need for more staff support from VA, and how VA will avoid the issues that have arisen at Mann-Grandstaff VAMC during the current rollout there.

“Since the implementation of the Cerner program last October, I have heard of a number of serious patient safety issues that could put our veterans at risk. I am also troubled by reports of exhausted staff struggling to use a system because of workflow design issues and the lack of adequate training. I expect the issues we have heard about at Spokane VAMC to be resolved immediately,” Senator Murray said.

Over the past few years, VA’s implementation of the Electronic Health Record Modernization project has faced extensive challenges and the Spokane VA has been plagued by a host of issues that have limited Eastern Washington veterans’ ability to receive timely, quality health care. Earlier this year, Secretary McDonough announced a “Strategic Review” of the program in March 2021. The long planned restructuring of VA’s EHR system is meant to ease sharing of medical records between the Department of Defense and VA, as well as VA and community providers. It is projected to be completed by 2028.

Senator Murray has been conducting oversight on the EHR rollout at Mann-Grandstaff VAMC for more than a year, writing a letter in January 2020 to VA leadership expressing her concern on reports of staffing and facility issues at Mann-Grandstaff VAMC, and how those issues could affect the EHR rollout. Shortly after this letter, VA officials announced that they were delaying rollout of the EHR system, and Senator Murray put out a statement on the delay and the need to get the rollout done right. Following that announced delay, implementation was pushed back a several more times due in large part to COVID-19, and eventually the new EHR system went live at Mann-Grandstaff VAMC in October. Senator Murray also previously called out issues with the implementation of the Department of Defense (DoD) EHR system in 2018.

Senator Murray’s remarks for the hearing as prepared are below.

“Secretary McDonough, I was pleased to see you visited Mann-Grandstaff VAMC in Spokane earlier this year and I expect you will remain involved in resolving the issues that VA staff and veterans have faced using the new Cerner EHR product.

“In 2019 I heard about outstanding infrastructure issues and ongoing staffing challenges that could make implementation of a new EHR system at Mann-Grandstaff more difficult and ultimately threaten patient care.

“Because of those reports, I cautioned VA in a January 2020 letter to ensure they prioritized veterans’ access to care and support for the staff at our medical centers during this modernization project.

“That was over a year and a half ago. These issues should have already been addressed.

“Since the implementation of the Cerner program last October, I have heard of a number of serious patient safety issues that could put our veterans at risk.

“I am also troubled by reports of exhausted staff struggling to use a system because of workflow design issues and the lack of adequate training. I expect the issues we have heard about at Spokane VAMC to be resolved immediately. When the strategic review is completed, I would like your team to provide a detailed briefing to my office on how the strategic review is going to help Washington state.

“You have inherited this multi-year, multi-billion dollar Electronic Health Record Modernization Program and all of the challenges that come with it.  We confirmed you for this position because of your management skills and ability to tackle hard problems. We need decisive leadership now to get this back on track.”

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