The electronic health records system piloted at Spokane’s VA hospital and other locations has been partly or completely unusable more than 50 times since its launch in 2020.
Over the past four months, the system has experienced numerous outages including one that lasted 6 hours. Then, VA physicians and other clinicians were unable to access or update veterans’ health records.
Employees at the Mann-Grandstaff VA in Spokane fear for the safety of veterans saying the new health record system places veterans in danger.
Meanwhile, in a VA House Committee hearing, April 28, Secretary Denis McDonough told Rep. Matt Rosendale, R-Mont, he would not continue the rollout of the Cerner system “if I ever have any reason to think that this is creating risk for our patients.”
Is It Risky To Not Use Medical Records At A Hospital?
McDonough stated he was familiar with the shocking stories coming out of the Mann-Grandstaff VA facility over the past few months. But he failed to explain why he breached his earlier promise with Rosendale to not rollout the system until it was fully functioning.
Who is right? Is it the employees providing emergent health care to sick and elderly disabled veterans or the bureaucrat running the agency from 810 NW Vermont?
50+ Confirmed System Irregularities
Numerous news agencies have reported on the growing mess over the past two years with The Spokesman-Review leading the charge.
The Spokesman-Review confirmed the number of outages through various communications between agency officials and the press and Congress. In all, there have been 10 unplanned outages and 42 unplanned degradations.
The outages render the system completely useless while the degradations seemingly partially limit system use.
Does that seem like a lot? Why weren’t the glitches worked out before implementing the system?
For anyone reading this with common sense, either system outages or degradations, are bad in any record system much less one relied on by a hospital system. The number of these problems eclipses any reports in recent history impacting access to VistA, the system Cerner plans to replace.
The contract for the new system was awarded to Cerner Corporation in 2018 in a no-bid contract arrangement despite objectives from various officials at the time. The contract award was $10 billion over a ten-year period.
A report from the VA Office of Inspector General estimates the cost to be as much as $21 billion plus $2 billion for each additional year it takes to finish.
Cerner Execs Testify Before Congress
Lawmakers are now skeptical of the current implementation plan asking VA leadership to delay further rollout to other locations until the glitches are fixed.
As chance would have it, the system went down during the April 26 hearing two days before the Secretary’s hearing at HVAC. Cerner apparently made a normal update to the IT system that caused the system to go down.
The entire exchange with Major Gen. Patrick Sergeant (Ret), the new General Manager of Cerner Government Services, is worth watching. Reps. Mrvan and Rosendale had no problem putting Sergeant or his support staff on the hot seat over continued instabilities of the system.
Cerner To Review Glitches After 2 Years
Per Sergeant, AFTER TWO YEARS and multiple challenges, during the hearing, Cerner informed Congress that it would finally conduct an independent review of the Cerner system to evaluate what may be causing the chronic outages. “We will likely plan to do a technical review of the system to be sure we are doing everything properly.”