First component of VA EHR modernization goes live in Ohio

In a first step for its long-planned, decade-long, $16 billion Electronic Health Record Modernization program, the U.S. Department of Veterans affairs announced today that it has gone live with a scheduling tool that will, eventually, find its way into VA facilities across the country.

The new Cerner-developed Centralized Scheduling Solution is up and running at VA Central Ohio Healthcare System in Columbus, Ohio, and will enable more efficient patient scheduling by offering visibility into clinician availability within a unified system.

Cerner says it has migrated and tested demographic information for the 60,000 veterans who receive care at the facility. The CSS will be integrated with the full EHR systems set to be implemented at the the next go-live site, Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center in Spokane, Washington, this autumn.

The new implementation will make it so VA staff in Columbus don’t have to log in to multiple applications to coordinate calendars, clinicians, rooms and equipment, eliminating time-intensive manual data entry and workarounds to finalize appointments. 

Instead, according to VA officials, color-coded time slots and a unified view for coordinating schedules across multiple locations will make scheduling easier for both VA staff and for veterans, who can make, reschedule and cancel appointments online.

“With CSS, VA staff will be able to identify and fill no-show appointments in real-time using a single system,” according to the VA. “CSS also benefits Veterans by optimizing their access to health care with a more efficient online scheduling experience.

The EHRM program kicked off in May 2018, when VA signed a $10 billion deal with Cerner to built a new EHR, interoperable with the one Cerner is building for the U.S. Department of Defense, to replace its existing VistA system.

The planned price tag for the project has already climbed to $16 billion, and VA officials in February asked Congress for an additional $1.2 billion, even as it was missing its own deadline for go-live at Mann-Grandstaff.

After hitting pause on the implementation timeline due to COVID-19, the agency announced it would restart the program in October, in hopes of going live in the Pacific Northwest this fall.

“VA has delivered an enhanced scheduling system that will benefit Veterans and health care providers,” said Acting VA Deputy Secretary Pamela Powers, who has oversight of VA’s EHRM program, in a statement. 

“This is another successful launch of a major milestone in the EHRM effort and will optimize Veterans’ access to health care by improving appointment scheduling. CSS also provides an efficient and transparent method of identifying and eliminating double bookings, flagging canceled appointments and maximizing provider time spent with patients.”

Twitter: @MikeMiliardHITN
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