Our Veterans deserve the best healthcare we can offer
Washington, D.C. – “We all know what it is like when we have an idea that looks good on the surface but turns out not to work the way we’d hoped. When our good ideas go sour, we face a choice: either we can admit the mistake and turn back to find a better solution, or we can refuse to change course, steamrolling those around us because we don’t want to be wrong. Instead of fixing a problem, the latter choice often hurts those we’d intended to help.
“Unfortunately, this is what has happened with recent efforts by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to implement a new Electronic Health Record (EHR) system. Although intended to provide a streamlined, seamless process for veterans receiving healthcare, the rollout of the system has resulted instead in confusion and frustration, leaving both veterans and their medical providers unable to access and provide needed care. Yet despite these alarming problems, the VA initially chose to press forward with the rollout of this flawed system. Our veterans gave their best to our nation. Until we can ensure that we can give them the best in return, we must delay the rollout of this new electronic health record system and turn back for a better solution.
“The VA’s new EHR system was first deployed at the Spokane, Washington, medical center in October 2020. This initial rollout revealed an alarming number of deficiencies that negatively impacted the quality of care that veterans there received. The problems have ranged from delays in scheduling specialist appointments and tests to critical medication being lost in the mail to huge backlogs in processing referrals for care in the community. Most recently, the VA Inspector General issued a report detailing almost 150 cases of patient harm resulting from the new system, and an alarming 78% of users at the VA declared in a recent survey that the system does not enable them to deliver high quality care.
“In spite of these severe problems, however, officials at the VA initially resisted calls to delay rollout of the system, which went live at three other VA centers in the region last year. I was deeply concerned when the VA announced plans to implement it at the Boise medical center last June, and I joined other members of the Idaho Congressional Delegation in expressing these concerns with the Secretary of the VA. As a result, he decided to postpone the rollout of the system anywhere else through June 2023 and at the Boise medical center until mid-2024 or later.
“I remain concerned, however, that just as this system continued to be implemented despite serious deficiencies and warnings from the employees, there may again be attempts to push it forward before all the issues have been resolved. To ensure this doesn’t happen, I joined Chairman Mike Bost of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee in introducing legislation to insist on improvements and give the leaders of each medical center, including Boise, a voice in whether the system is suitable to roll out. They know best whether it will serve the veterans they care for. H.R. 592, the Electronic Health Records Modernization Improvement Act, would prevent the VA from implementing the EHR at any new site until the VA can show significant system improvement. To move ahead, officials at each site have to certify that the configuration of the system is correct for that site and that staff and infrastructure there are adequately prepared. The bill requires that the director, chief of staff, and network director of each medical center verify that the EHR will not have a harmful impact on wait times, patient safety, or quality. In addition, it ensures that the system will not be used for training, testing, or similar activities until it is fully ready to deliver healthcare.
“Our veterans deserve better than an ill-conceived system that impedes their care. I am proud to support the veterans who have defended our nation and made tremendous sacrifices to preserve our way of life. We have a duty to make sure the world-class healthcare and benefits they have earned are actually delivered.”