VA delays launch of $16 billion electronic health record system

Photo credit Photo by Senior Airman Kasey Zickmund

The Department of Veterans Affairs told Congress Monday that it plans to delay the long-anticipated rollout of a $16 billion electronic health records system that was expected to go live next month.

VA said on Monday “members of Congress have urged the department not to rush its electronic health record (EHR) modernization efforts.”

“VA leaders have heard that call, and are proceeding deliberately and thoughtfully to adhere to the project’s ten-year timeline, which calls for a rolling implementation schedule through 2027,” VA spokeswoman Susan Carter told Connecting Vets. 

VA is specifically delaying plans to start training staff to use the new system, which was expected to go live next month at the Spokane, Wash. VA hospital. 

After testing the new EHR system, VA decided it will need “more time to complete the system build” and ensure doctors and other users “are properly trained on it.”

“We believe we are 75-80 percent complete,” Carter said. “(We) will be announcing a revised ‘go-live’ schedule in the coming weeks.” 

VA Secretary Robert Wilkie told members of Congress on Monday about the delay, sources with knowledge of those conversations told Connecting Vets, which is expected to last at least through April. 

Since the system isn’t finished, if training began on schedule, VA staff and community care providers would have to train on “an unfinished version of the system.” 

Congressional staff said the pace of the project “has not been as rapid as hoped” and if the expected March 28 deadline had held, it was “very possible” that building and testing the system would have continued right up until the deadline, leaving “very little margin for error.” 

The new program is intended to create a unilateral computer system that will handle universal health records. From the moment a person enters the Armed Services, they will have one electronic health record (EHR) that follows them their entire lives, including as they transition out of the service and begin seeking care at the VA or with private healthcare.