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VA Kicks Off EHR Program at Joint Facility with DOD

The agency’s Dr. Neil Evans briefed how the Oracle-Cerner program rollout in North Chicago is informing next steps in EHR modernization.

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Lovell FHCC vaccinates first veteran in Immunization Clinic
A veteran patient receives a vaccination from Hospitalman Sean Cook in the Immunization Clinic at the Capt. James A. Lovell Federal Health Care. Photo Credit: Stephanie McCrobie/Department of Veterans Affairs

The Department of Veterans Affairs rolled out its new electronic health record jointly with the Defense Department at its facility in North Chicago earlier this month. It’s the first rollout since the VA paused the modernization program for a systemic review and listening tour, and the largest facility to adopt the system to date.

Dr. Neil Evans, acting executive director of VA’s Electronic Health Record Modernization Integration Office, cited the VA’s close partnership with DOD to ensure the joint system rolled out smoothly.

“One of our goals during the program reset has been to put the resources into preparing for a go-live at [Lovell Federal Health Care Center], particularly given its unique status as a joint site,” Evans said during a media roundtable this month. “This really has been a part of the reset for us and, frankly, is a part of our path to restarting deployment.”

Evans said this successful rollout will serve as a jumping off point for the rest of VA’s EHR modernization process, but only if it meets the department’s success criteria. Lovell is the largest of the six total facilities in which the EHR has been deployed. Evans said there is “value in going live at a more complex site with a higher inpatient volume, a broader set of specialties and the like.”

“We’ve made improvements, significant changes from our prior go-lives at the existing five sites. This is an important part as well of our learning and evaluating those changes that we made,” Evans said. “I think we’ll learn a lot and what we learn from the changes we’ve introduced already and how we see those and how we shepherd things through this implementation at FHCC will certainly be an important part of our considerations as we talk about restarting deployments elsewhere in the organization.”

One of the major challenges of EHR modernization includes staff adoption. Evans emphasized a number of initiatives the VA has taken to acclimate employees to the new system. Over the past year, the VA has made “significant” changes to EHR training, including appointing engaged “super user” employees to teach the system to their peers, improved computer-based training and learning labs for employees to test the system in sandbox-style environments.

“A lot about an electronic health record transition is about how we help staff navigate the change in the technology that underlies how they’re able to deliver care to the patients that they serve,” Evans said.

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