The Veterans Affairs Department has restarted the rollout of its multibillion-dollar electronic health record project after pausing amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The VA had planned to bring its first site—Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center in Spokane, Wash.—live on a new Cerner Corp. EHR in March, but pushed back the deployment just a few weeks before the scheduled go-live date, saying it needed more time to build the system. Then, in April, the VA paused the EHR rollout on account of COVID-19.
The VA on Friday confirmed the agency's Office of Electronic Health Record Modernization is working with Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center to implement the system in October.
"After a period of delay during which (Veterans Affairs medical centers) focused on their response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are pleased to have our Electronic Health Record Modernization team resume activities with our facilities," VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said in a statement Friday.
The next VA facilities to go live on the EHR will include sites in Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky and Michigan.
Despite the delay, VA officials said the new implementation schedule will wrap up in the planned 10-year time frame, as the agency had laid out when it signed the contract with Cerner Corp. in 2018.
John Peterzalek, Cerner's chief client and services officer, hinted that the VA would be restarting its EHR go-lives soon during on a call with investment analysts in July. At the time, he said new go-live dates for the VA had been proposed, but not yet shared publicly.
Peterzalek in July told Modern Healthcare the Defense Department, which had also paused its EHR rollout amid the pandemic, would move forward with its implementations in the fall, and the Coast Guard would go live with a pilot site in San Francisco at the end of August.
The VA, DOD and Cerner are making some adjustments to the agencies' EHR go-lives on account of the pandemic, according to Peterzalek. They'll involve fewer workers on site and involve more virtual support from off-site Cerner employees, he said.
The VA also plans to implement a new patient-scheduling tool from Cerner at the VA Central Ohio Healthcare System in Columbus this month.
The VA in May 2018 inked a $10 billion contract with Cerner for a 10-year rollout of an EHR system, which the VA is co-developing with the DOD.
Since then, costs for the project, which replaces the agency's homegrown EHR—VistA—have continued to climb. The VA has estimated it will need another $6.1 billion for costs related to program management and infrastructure, as well as additional funding yet to be determined to cover other physical upgrades needed for individual healthcare facilities, according to an April report from the VA Office of Inspector General.