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VA delays computer system’s launch in Boise as Senate hearing spotlights harm, massive cost increase


WASHINGTON – In a last -minute decision Wednesday, the Department of Veterans Affairs delayed Saturday’s planned launch of a chaotic computer system in Boise after a guard report linking the system to 149 Spokane hospital injury cases in VA.

VA Secretary Denis McDonough confirmed the decision to reporters minutes before a Senate hearing that focused on a report published Friday by the VA Office of Inspector General. The hearing found that the health care providers system relied on tracking patient data and coordinating care effectively eliminating thousands of referral orders, resulting in delays. care and injury to veterans.

Senator Patty Murray, a Washington Democrat who visited Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center on July 7, told four VA officials who appeared before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee that their testimony contradicted what she had heard from veterans and clinicians in Spokane.

“Frankly, I was a little upset with what I heard,” Murray said, pointing to system flaws that threaten care. “And VA’s written testimony doesn’t match what I’ve heard from providers. I don’t want to hear a rosy photo that lessens worries – I don’t want to hear any of that. The VA may have inherited this program, but you have it now, and the VA owes our veterans a system that works and prioritizes patients.

Murray, along with Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane, has repeatedly asked the VA to fix system problems before they are taken to other sites in Washington.

Following the launch of Mann-Grandstaff and its affiliated clinics throughout the Inland Northwest in October 2020, it has since launched facilities in Walla Walla as well as in Oregon and Ohio.

The system is scheduled to launch at Seattle and other Puget Sound sites in August until The Spokesman-Review gets a draft of the Inspector General’s report, urging VA leaders to delay deployments. until March 2023. But as of Wednesday, the Boise launch had been rescheduled in just one month until July 23rd.

In his monthly briefing with reporters, McDonough declined to give a clear answer when asked why the system the VA has determined is less reliable for Seattle or Boise than it is safe to use in Spokane, Coeur d ‘ Alene, Richland and other cities in the Inland Northwest where it has already rolled.

Kurt DelBene (center), chief information officer of the Department of Veterans Affairs, testified during the Senate VA Committee hearing at the Capitol on Wednesday.  Also on the panel of witnesses were Terry Adirim (left), executive program director of the VA’s Electronic Health Record Modernization Integration Office, and Gerard Cox (right), a VA assistant under the secretary for health who oversees safety. to the patient.  (Orion Donovan-Smith, The Spokesman-Review)

Kurt DelBene (center), chief information officer of the Department of Veterans Affairs, testified during the Senate VA Committee hearing at the Capitol on Wednesday. Also on the panel of witnesses were Terry Adirim (left), executive program director of the VA’s Electronic Health Record Modernization Integration Office, and Gerard Cox (right), a VA assistant under the secretary for health who oversees safety. to the patient. (Orion Donovan-Smith, The Spokesman-Review)

The VA plans to try to replace its existing electronic health record system with one made by Oracle Health, formerly known as Cerner, worth $ 16.1 billion over 10 years. At Wednesday’s hearing, Senate VA Committee Chairman Jon Tester, D-Mont., Revealed that the nonprofit Institute for Defense Analyzes estimates the project will cost $ 33.6 billion to implement over 13 years and a total of $ 50.8 billion to sustainable for 28 years.

Oracle, which acquired Cerner in a $ 28.3 billion deal that closed in June, is set to receive at least $ 10 billion for the system under a contract signed by the Trump administration in 2018.

“This should serve as a wake -up call for everyone,” Tester said, “including the people of VA, Oracle Cerner and of course us – Congress – because we still have a lot of work ahead.”

Terry Adirim, who heads the VA office that oversaw the launch of the Oracle Cerner system in January, told senators he could not make the same decisions as his predecessors but insisted the system was improving.

“I’ll be frank,” Adirim said. “Apparently, Mann-Grandstaff is not yet ready to adopt the new electronic health record.”

“But that was almost two years ago,” he said, adding that his office has learned valuable lessons from Spokane’s mistakes. “As we plan to move forward with other deployments, we are increasingly engaging with our past sites, closely monitoring and evaluating for user experience and adoption.”

Restoring a hospital to its normal operation after implementing a new electronic health record system could take up to six months, Adirim told senators. But more than 18 months after the system was launched in Spokane, it has always been unusable due to breakdowns and service damage.

The VA’s top patient safety expert, Gerard Cox, also told senators that the problem that caused at least 149 injury cases has yet to be fully resolved. When Murray asked Cox if he was responsible for continuing to use the Spokane system, he gave a revealing answer.

“The only way this system is effectively used, I believe, is because … our dedicated employees put in double-time, double-checking, triple-checking things,” he said. “That’s not the way it should work.”

When Murray asked again if the safety expert believed the system still needed to be used, Cox said, “I think we’ve taken enough steps to build more protections, know where vulnerabilities, based on Spokane’s experience, to reduce the risk of further injury. ”

Murray also asked Adirim about the number of system disruptions, which was suggested in a document obtained by The Spokesman-Review to be more frequent than the VA admits. Adirim replied that he was not familiar with the document, even though it was shared with The VA Spokesman-Review before the story was published.



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