Since Congress passed appropriations for the VA in September/October [TTA 3 Aug on House bill] after a busy and acrimonious summer, things have been very, very quiet. The appropriations require multiple mandatories around reporting by Oracle and the VA, which have kept them busy. Prior to this, VA screeched to a halt any further implementations of the Cerner EHR until the five current ones are fixed. The exception–the Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center in Chicago, the only fully-integrated VA and Department of Defense (Military Health System) healthcare system, with a projected go-live of March 2024.. As MHS, a much smaller and focused system, is just about completed with Cerner and the VA implementation is now postponed, Oracle decided to lay off former Cerner staff in fairly substantial numbers–500 to a rumored 1,200 layoffs in June.
- As of a September report on FedScoop, VA and Oracle Cerner plan to resume implementations during the summer of 2024, according to Dr. Neil Evans, acting program executive director of the VA’s EHRM Office, during a House Appropriations Oversight hearing on implementation of the VA’s EHRM initiative with Oracle Cerner that included Oracle’s Mike Sicilia.
- At that hearing, VA reported that the first round of fixes were completed on the EHR on 31 August in the first round of three-month increments.
- But during the Appropriations Oversight hearing, leaders of the VA medical facilities already using the Oracle-Cerner EHR testified that productivity is still less than when they were on VistA. Workers are putting in longer hours to cover the workload. Overal, the five the medical centers have hired on extra staff to compensate and have reported “exhausted, sometimes tearful, and frankly distressed” staff in dealing with multiple errors.
- Robert Fischer, director of the flashpoint Mann-Grandstaff VA medical center in Spokane, Washington, testified that they hired 20% more staff and 15% more clinicians to handle the same workloads. “I would say one of the root causes is related to Oracle-Cerner’s lack of appreciation for the complexity of VA operations,” Fischer said.
- Since implementation, employees have investigated 1,600 Oracle-Cerner-related patient safety events, 15,000 “break-fix” IT help tickets, and 28,000 medical orders that “did not execute successfully as anticipated.
- Example: at the VA Ambulatory Care Center in Columbus, Ohio, “Imagine being a doctor in Columbus, and receiving a critical message about a patient you have never seen, who’s been admitted to a Department of Defense site thousands of miles away, because his provider has a similar name,” Meredith Arensman, their chief of staff, testified. “Imagine being an optometrist and finding an eyeglass prescription that has your signature, that you know you never signed … These are not possibilities. It has been the reality.” Federal News Network
- Perhaps as a backup, the VA inked a deal made public today (31 October) with 13 community hospital systems for data sharing. The stated intent is by data sharing, they will improve veterans’ care in or outside the VA system, facilitate veterans taking advantage of VA and community resources, and connect veterans with VA benefits, including new benefits for toxic exposure-related conditions under the PACT Act. However, it’s also well known that VA offloads to community health systems. The systems are listed in the VA release. Work has already started and proof-of-concept is due in early 2024. FedScoop
VA also has to cover the now executive-ordered (EO’d) $1 million ‘tech sprint’ for healthcare innovation to 1) reduce staff burnout and 2) create AI-centered tools to save time for clinicians, such as clinicians’ note-taking and integration into veterans’ medical records. This one will consist of two three-month AI Tech Sprint competitions. More distraction. FedScoop
The Cerner blues, VA and health system driven, are affecting the Oracle share price. But Oracle chairman’s Larry Ellison need not worry. His net worth of $130.9 billion makes him the second wealthiest person in healthcare, topped only by Jeff Bezos of Amazon and followed by Thomas Frist and family, according to Forbes. Becker’s