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Investigators cite harm from VA medical-record system set to launch in Boise. What now?

Idaho Statesman - 7/20/2022

The government has delayed the rollout of a new electronic health record-keeping system at the Boise VA Medical Center following a watchdog’s report that said a flaw led to harm to veterans at the VA hospital in Spokane.

“We know this program faces real problems,” Sen. Jon Tester, chairman of the Senate’s Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said at a U.S. Senate hearing on the matter Wednesday.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs notified the committee Wednesday that the planned deployment of the system in Boise, which had been scheduled for Saturday, would be delayed. The decision to postpone follows its implementation in Spokane; Walla Walla, Washington; and Columbus, Ohio.

Nearly 150 instances of harm to veterans at Spokane’s VA hospital were reported by the VA Office of Inspector General, which found that a flaw in the program caused delays in patient care.

It’s unclear when the program’s implementation will resume.

Several VA sites have pushed the system’s implementation into 2023, according to Terry Adirim, executive director of the program at the VA.

The Spokesman-Review in Spokane reported Sunday that the inspector general’s draft report said Cerner Corp., which has a $10 billion contract to develop the system, knew about the flaw and failed to fix it or inform the VA. Cerner was acquired in June by Oracle, a multinational software company headquartered in Austin, Texas.

Several senators expressed outrage at the hearing.

“You are guaranteeing a mortality,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, told Adirim. “My own thinking about this has gone from disbelief to anger to humor to simply outrage.”

An investigation from the inspector general found that two VA officials gave the agency inaccurate information regarding how proficient employees were at using the new system.

“It’s regrettable that anyone would submit information that was not accurate,” Adirim said.

She said the VA officials who provided inaccurate information have been held accountable but wouldn’t specify how, saying it is a personnel matter. After further questioning, she said the officials have not been removed from their positions.

Other senators expressed concerns about the amount of time needed to train staff on the system amid widespread staffing shortages in the health care industry.

In a Facebook post Wednesday, the Boise VA Medical Center said it would do everything possible to ensure a safe and successful deployment of the system.

“Adjustments to the go-live schedule and other important considerations simply reflect this due diligence,” the post said. “Patient safety and burden on our medical personnel are foremost on our minds.”

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