In the latest update to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Electronic Health Records Modernization (EHRM) program saga, the agency has decided to delay a scheduled go-live of the EHR system at Ann Arbor Healthcare System facilities.

The Michigan site was scheduled to go-live in July 2023, after the VA made the decision in October to delay further deployments of its Oracle Cerner EHR system until June 2023. The purpose of this initial pause was to “assess and address” concerns with the system, performance, and functionality for veterans and VA healthcare personnel.

Laura Ruzick, the network director for Veterans Integrated Service Network 10, announced the decision to delay the go-live at Ann Arbor in an email to staff that was shared with MeriTalk.

“At the conclusion of the ‘assess and address’ pause, VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System was the first Level 1 site scheduled to go-live for Cerner in July 2023. However, in consultation with Ann Arbor’s executive and EHRM leadership, VA Central Office and EHR Management Integration Office, have made the difficult but necessary decision to push Ann Arbor’s rollout of EHR to late 2023 or early 2024,” she said.

“The reason for this decision is multi-faceted, especially focused on questions about how well EHRM would interact with VA Ann Arbor’s vital medical research mission,” she said.

Ruzick confirmed that the nearby VA Saginaw Healthcare System’s implementation is still on track for June 17, 2023, and that her team is “closely” monitoring the site’s readiness.

She added that feedback from the front-line users at the first test sites “has been invaluable,” and her team is working hard to implement the lessons learned.

It’s no secret that the VA’s EHRM program has not met expectations over the last year. The program has faced underreported costs, deficiencies in training, and diminished employee morale. Additionally, VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) reports have revealed the program has resulted in cases of patient harm and patient care issues.

However, VA plans to continue to work closely with Oracle Cerner to resolve issues with the system’s performance, maximize usability for VA healthcare providers, and ensure its users are served by an effective records system that supports their needs.

Additionally, the agency said it will continue to focus on the five facilities where the new system has already been deployed to ensure every patient is getting effective service and care.

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Grace Dille
Grace Dille
Grace Dille is MeriTalk's Assistant Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.