Close Menu

#VAFail: Veterans’ deaths connected to botched electronic health records system rollout

Stethoscope and Medical Files Close up with VA Fail Text

By Concerned Veterans for America

The Department of Veterans Affairs’ switch to a new electronic health records system has proven to be tumultuous for both veterans and VA staffers. For veterans, things have taken a dark turn as an alarming discovery has come out of the facilities testing the updated system.

There have been more than 150 cases of veterans harmed by glitches in the new system, six instances of catastrophic harm to veteran patients (death or permanent loss of function) including failure to “deliver more than 11,000 orders for specialty care, lab work and other services, all without alerting health care providers the orders had been lost.”

Of those six instances, four veterans died – one in the Spokane, Washington VA health facility and three in the Columbus, Ohio VA health facility.

Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers, whose district includes Spokane, believes the electronic health records project is a complete failure.

“It has caused serious harm to patients, devastated morale amongst employees and providers, and created a crisis of confidence for veterans,” she said.

The VA has since delayed the rollout of the new electronic health records system to more facilities. Meanwhile veterans’ health care issues continue to pile up.


VA reform: The new electronic health records project is a disaster

The new records system has been in planning and execution for years and is an attempt to modernize records management. The biggest gap the new system hopes to solve is communication between the Department of Defense and VA.

Both maintain separate medical records systems, causing unnecessary difficulty for veterans as they transition out of the military and into civilian life. The transition of their medical records is vital to ensure they receive the right treatment and disability coverage for injuries or conditions sustained in service.

But while the project itself is worthy and necessary, the execution has been disastrous.

Senate VA Committee Ranking Member Sen. Jerry Moran reiterated the VA’s goal to create a unified health records system for active-duty service members and veterans while also voicing frustration about the project turmoil.

“The five medical centers that are using this system are struggling with delays, disruptions, and rising costs.” he said recently. “The system has been a factor in the loss of veterans’ lives,” he said.

VA Health Secretary Dr. Shareef Elnahal testified before the Senate Appropriations Committee last year that the new system caused high stress for staffers at the Columbus VA facility and some staffers quit because the workflows were too difficult to use.

Users have complained of many problems with the new system, including the part of the system that manages medicine. These problems pose risks for patients, like getting the wrong medicine or having to wait longer for the medicine they need.

Military Times noted that Dr. Neil Evans, the project’s acting program executive director, acknowledged the failure in fixing the health records system “For the past few years, we’ve tried to fix this plane while flying it, and that hasn’t delivered the results that veterans or our staff deserve,” he said.

The next steps for the project remain unclear, though the VA has extended its contract with Oracle Cerner for an additional five years to get the new system up and running.

Should we be surprised that the VA is failing veterans in this way?

The VA’s history of giving veterans the care they need has been lackluster, and management of a new records system hasn’t gone much smoother. Whether it’s deliberately turning veterans away from community care, being embroiled in scandal after scandal, or this latest issue, the VA isn’t instilling confidence in its veteran patients.

Read more #VAFails and learn about ways to reform the VA.