Senate Democrats Plan to Introduce Legislation for VA EHRM Program Overhaul

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Posted on March 30th, 2023 by Hannah Nelson

The bill aims to restructure, enhance, and strengthen the VA EHRM program while mandating aggressive reporting to Congress to increase oversight.

Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), a senior member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Chairman Jon Tester (D-MT), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) are leading a legislative push for an overhaul of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) Electronic Health Record Modernization (EHRM) program.

In the coming days, the Senators are set to introduce comprehensive legislation that would require VA to implement a series of EHRM reforms.

Their bill would restructure, enhance, and strengthen the EHRM program while also mandating aggressive reporting to Congress to increase oversight, accountability, and transparency following a series of challenges with the system and program.

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Among its many provisions, the legislation would require VA to:

  • Create metrics to guide whether and how VA should go forward with the new EHR at additional VA facilities and require additional resources to support those facilities;
  • Require VA and EHR vendor Oracle Cerner to fix the technology features connected to patient safety found in VA’s March 2023 Sprint Report;
  • Not implement the new EHR at additional VA health facilities until the data at the existing facilities demonstrates an ability to deliver healthcare to veterans at standards that surpass metrics using VA’s VistA system, or that meet national health operations standards as determined by the Under Secretary for Health;
  • Select a lead senior negotiator and leverage other federal agencies and independent experts to offer strategies for managing aggressive EHR contract negotiations with Oracle Cerner to protect taxpayers and veterans;
  • Develop an alternative “Plan B” strategy for a new EHR in the event Oracle Cerner will not agree to new contract terms that protect taxpayers and increase accountability;
  • Reform major VA acquisitions to prevent future programs with poor contracting, oversight, management, and planning from occurring;
  • Add healthcare experts with proven experience implementing EHR deployments to the VA Advisory Committee to advise VA leaders on potential strategies on how to improve VA EHRM’s implementation.

The law would also require the Department of Defense (DoD) to report to Congress quarterly on steps it is taking fix DoD information technology systems, including those which are outdated and are negatively impacting VA’s ability to deliver healthcare, benefits, and other services, including through the Oracle Cerner EHR.

Top members of the House VA Committee have also recently introduced bills that would set a higher bar for the Oracle-Cerner EHR’s performance.