After delaying the first go-live for its Cerner EHR twice this year, the Department of Veterans Affairs installed the system at the Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center Oct. 24.

Part of a $16 billion deal to upgrade the VA’s EHR system, the implementation marks a major milestone in the project that aims to roll out the new system to VA facilities nationwide by 2028.

The hospital in Spokane, Washington, and its four outpatient clinics are the first sites in the country to go-live on the system, giving 24,000 veterans access to the new software. The hospital’s clinics are located in Wenatchee, Washington; Libby, Montana; Coeur d’Alene, Idaho; and Sandpoint, Idaho.

Private sector company Cerner Corp. won the contract to replace the VA’s internally developed VistA EHR system in 2018, in part due to its existing contract with the Department of Defense. The goal was to have an EHR system that would be seamless across the agencies. With the implementation of the system at Mann-Grandstaff, the DoD and VA are on the same EHR for the first time, allowing providers from both departments to view, update and securely exchange patient data.

“This is a historic step toward creating a seamless healthcare experience for veterans, from the time they enter the military through their care at VA,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie in a news release.

Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center went live with a set of capabilities that support small- and medium-sized hospitals; while the another set of capabilities, which will support functions at VA’s largest and most complex hospitals, will be ready by next spring, a VA spokesperson said in an email. The facilities that have already gone live with the new system will also be able to use the new capabilities once they are ready.

About 95% of the staff at Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center who require end-user training for the new system have completed it, a Cerner spokesperson said via email. The company is setting up individual and small group sessions for those who have not completed training.

Initially, the VA intended to go-live on the new system March 28 but decided to delay the implementation to July because there was still development work to be done. At the time, about 19 of the 73 interfaces were not ready. Reports released by the VA Office of Inspector General in April shed further light on the delay. Aside from certain capabilities not being ready in time, the OIG found that leadership had not made adequate preparations to address the expected 30% decline in access to care in the two years following the go-live.

The VA again pushed back the EHR go-live date in April due to the Covid-19 pandemic, according to Healthcare Dive. Wilkie said in a letter to Congress that the agency would turn its focus to caring for veterans and providing surge capabilities for civilian health systems amid the public health crisis. The VA resumed EHR implementation activities in August.

After the first full implementation at Mann-Grandstaff hospital, VA facilities in Columbus, Ohio, Walla Walla, Washington, and White City, Oregon, will go-live on the new system next, the Cerner spokesperson said.

Photo credit: ipopba, Getty Images

 



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