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The VA’s New Electronic Medical Records System

After 8 months of delays, the Department of Veterans Affairs recently announced a significant milestone – the adoption and implementation of a new electronic health records system. Last week, VA officials confirmed the launch of the Cerner Millennium EHR at the Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center, located in Spokane, Washington, and its affiliated clinics.

This step to modernize the medical records system at the VA has been in the making for decades, and last week’s launch of the Cerner Millennium EHR follows the rollout of a new Cerner-built appointment scheduling software in Ohio in September and the adoption of another similar platform at four Coast Guard facilities in March.

The process initially took so long to implement due to lengthy debates with the Department of Defense over which platform to use. Ultimately, in 2017, the VA announced that it would buy the Cerner System, which is the same one as DoD, except DoD calls in MHS Genesis. However, the roll-out at Mann-Grandstaff was delayed in February in order to ensure that the department’s IT framework could support the program and that employees had ample time to train on it. Then, in April, it was delayed again due to the pandemic so that staff could focus on treating patients and maintaining safe clinical environments.

While the VA and DoD are familiar with being chastised by Congressional lawmakers for their inability to establish a common electronic medical record capable of tracking a service members’ medical record from recruitment through their lives as veterans, this time the delays in implementation received support from those same lawmakers, and the VA was encouraged to focus on a trouble-free rollout, rather than pushing it through and experiencing issues later. The VA anticipates the Cerner EHR system to be in place nationwide at all VA facilities by 2028 and projects that it will cost roughly $16 billion dollars.

Hopefully, especially with a price tag as high as that, this new system will assist in providing better health care for our nations service members and veterans. They certainly deserve it.


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