VA’s first site experiences smooth cutover to new EHR

Published: October 29, 2020

Federal Market AnalysisElectronic Health RecordHealth ITVA

After two years of planning and a number of challenges, some coming hours before going live, VA successfully transitioned its first medical center to the new Electronic Health Record (EHR) over the weekend.

VA is in the midst of its largest, most complex IT project to date, implementing a new EHR to replace its homegrown legacy EHR, VistA. VA is installing Cerner’s Millennium application across all medical facilities over a ten-year period. DOD is also implementing the same Cerner software across medical locations, ultimately creating a single longitudinal health record to follow military service members from active duty into veteran status.

The go-live date for the initial deployment at VA’s Mann-Grandstaff medical center in Spokane, WA, shifted twice initially due to training issues and then due to the pandemic. However, despite summer wildfires and a surprise heavy snowstorm that cut power the night before cutover, the transition on October 24th was a success according to VA officials.  

In an interview with Nextgov, executive director of VA’s Office of Electronic Health Record Modernization (OEHRM), John Windom said, “We went live as anticipated on October 24, Saturday, at approximately 0700. It’s great to report that the system is working as expected—that includes the interfaces, that includes the core electronic health record solution. We’re proud to report we opened for business on the 24th.”

The Mann-Grandstaff installation not only included 1,300 users at that site, but also 100 patient accounting support personnel in Las Vegas and another 800 users at the Tele-ICU hub in Cincinnati.

“The cutover went very smoothly… all the systems were integrated and working as of 7 a.m. Saturday,” Laura Kroupa, OEHRM chief medical officer, told Nextgov. Kroupa stated that from a clinical standpoint, everything worked as expected.  However, as with any IT transition, help desk tickets came in. Most of the tickets were centered around user roles and navigating the system, according to Kroupa.

VA will now turn its attention to the next site to launch the new EHR in Walla Walla, WA. A congressional aide told FedScoop that the center is a much smaller site, but the technical infrastructure needs upgrading. The aide said, “It will take months and months to get ready for the Walla Walla go-live.”