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VA’s New Deputy Secretary Faces Transformed EHR Program

Agency leaders outline a focus on training, readiness and transparency in tackling the next stages of its electronic health records.

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Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough swears in Deputy Secretary Donald Remy July 19, 2021.
Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough swears in Deputy Secretary Donald Remy July 19, 2021. Photo Credit: Department of Veterans Affairs

With the Department of Veterans Affairs’ deputy secretary confirmation, Donald Remy will step into a role that will lead the agency’s next phases of its Electronic Health Record Modernization (EHRM) program.

On the heels of the recently completed strategic review of the program, VA Secretary Denis McDonough detailed a site-by-site readiness deployment strategy, but the exact schedule had still largely been unknown.

“We’re a learning health care system, and we’ve already learned an immense amount from our colleagues in Spokane from this to inform our way forward,” said previous Acting Deputy Secretary Dr. Carolyn Clancy during a House hearing Wednesday. Clancy will return to her previous role as deputy undersecretary for Discovery, Education and Affiliate Networks for the Veterans Health Administration, according to an agency announcement.

Clancy and other agency leaders provided additional details about the agency’s intended plans to refocus its EHR rollout with additional attention to training and management of the program. Notably, the department will not be scheduling rollouts for the next six months, Clancy said. The agency aims to release a new schedule by the end of this year.

The previously announced transition of the program to an enterprise-wide governance structure advises that newly confirmed Remy will have even more direct oversight of the program.

“This new governance and management structure, in its essence, is the program office, OIT and VHA will work very closely and report to the deputy secretary in terms of how things are going to get done,” Clancy said at the hearing. “The deputy secretary will have a far more active role than some of my predecessors in terms of insisting on jointness and transparency across the different components.”

VA leaders also emphasized readiness in its future rollout plan, versus the site-by-site strategy the program had before.

“We want to ensure that the concept of readiness goes beyond just the technical components, whether or not the actual physical infrastructure or technical infrastructure is in place, but indeed that broader readiness model is taken into account,” said Assistant Under Secretary for Health for Clinical Services Dr. Kameron Matthews.

“By making these changes, we can, and we will, modernize this critical aspect of our health care system,” Clancy said. “We’re building a system that helps providers understand each veterans’ unique stories and wrap around them the resources of our nationally integrated system. That’s the end goal. We can get there, and we will.”

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