The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced it is delaying the deployment of its Electronic Health Records Modernization (EHRM) program at the VA Saginaw Healthcare System in Michigan, saying that the new EHR system is “not yet ready” for the scheduled go-live this summer.

The agency planned to end its “assess and address” pause in the EHRM program with the Saginaw site, which was scheduled to go-live on June 17. VA announced the pause period in October – aiming to address concerns with the Oracle Cerner EHR system for veterans and VA healthcare personnel.

Laura Ruzick, the network director for Veterans Integrated Service Network 10, announced the decision to delay the scheduled go-live at Saginaw in an email to staff that was shared with MeriTalk.

“As VA leadership has promised, we will not deploy the new EHR system at any facility until we are confident it is ready to deliver for Veterans and VA providers,” Ruzick said. “Based on our recent assessments, including the ongoing ‘assess and address’ period and the Readiness Assessment, we have determined that the new EHR is not yet ready for the planned June deployment in Saginaw.”

The VA will have more updates on the path forward “in the coming weeks,” Ruzick said, but the staff’s EHR training that was scheduled to begin on April 11 has been postponed.

“I am confident that when we do roll out the new EHR system in Saginaw, we will make it a smooth, safe, and positive experience for veterans and staff alike – and we will do so together,” she added.

The decision is consistent with the agency’s EHRM Sprint Project Team’s report issued last month that outlined the next steps for the program. In the report, the agency noted that it wants to return to baseline productivity at the current sites where the EHR system is deployed, before rolling it out elsewhere.

In February, the VA announced the delay of a scheduled go-live of the EHR system at another Michigan site – the Ann Arbor Healthcare System facilities. The Ann Arbor site was scheduled to go-live in July 2023, but is now scheduled for late 2023 or early 2024.

The latest delay at Saginaw comes after Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, introduced legislation last week that would stop the VA from deploying the EHRM program until it makes system improvements.

Sen. Moran, along with 11 other Republican senators, introduced the Department of Veterans Affairs EHRM Standardization and Accountability Act, which would establish a list of requirements that the VA must meet before deploying the EHR system at any other VA medical centers.

Chairman Jon Tester, D-Mont., and his Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee colleagues Sens. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, also announced their plans last week to introduce legislation that would increase oversight of the EHRM program, order technical fixes to current problems with the system, and leave room for the agency to pursue alternative tech strategies if need be.

“In short, our patience is running thin,” Sen. Tester, said at a Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs hearing last month. “If we’re back here, even three months from now, still talking about the same old stuff, then we’ve got some issues.”

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Grace Dille
Grace Dille
Grace Dille is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.