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DoD, VA and Coast Guard experience EHR outage nationwide

by John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter | April 12, 2022
Health IT

Spokespeople for Cerner and Leidos did not immediately respond to Nexgov’s request for comment and did not disclose if other government and non-government systems were affected.

The DOD EHR system has been in the works since 2015, with the Coast Guard joining in 2018. The VA also agreed in 2018 to upgrade its own EHR system as part of the combined Electronic Health Record Modernization Program. Initially estimated to cost $10 billion, the cost for the project was later upgraded to $16 billion.

The schedule for full deployment of the system has been hit with a number of setbacks. The COVID-19 pandemic delayed the project in early 2020, with work resuming that August. Another six-month delay in July 2021 was put in place after training failures, data migration problems, and concerns over patient safety were discovered at the site in Spokane.

Additionally, a report in May estimated that the VA may have been short by as much as $2.6 billion for the infrastructure upgrades that the system required and was followed by another in July that said an additional $2.5 billion was necessary for IT infrastructure needs. These concerns led to an independent cost estimate in October to determine how much the VA expected to spend on the project.

Another report in November by the VA Office of Inspector General showed that the EHR scheduling platform “reduced the system’s effectiveness and risked delays in patient care” and said that the VA was aware of these “significant” limitations prior to installing the system last year in Spokane, Washington and Columbus, Ohio.

Among the problems was the inability to change appointment types, with schedulers having to manually create a new one or ask the provider to submit a new order. They also could not mail appointment letter reminders automatically, a feature that was available on the old system. Additionally, the new system did not have oversight reports that were previously accessible to track and monitor patient wait times.

Remy says the agency is using the reports and its experiences with the go-live site in Spokane to improve the system, and has already made over 2,000 content changes in training, expanded the training course catalog and virtual training options.

The VA plans to launch the system on April 30 in Columbus, Ohio.

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