VA electronic health record system hit with further outages at Walla Walla site

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The Department of Veterans Affairs’ electronic health record system has suffered two further outages.

VA and Cerner executives told lawmakers Tuesday that the EHR system went down Monday for about 127 minutes and said they were continuing to investigate the cause of a second incident that took place today.

“There was an outage today at Walla Walla … and an outage yesterday for 127 minutes due to load imbalance,” said Laura Prietula, VA’s deputy chief information officer for electronic health record modernization.

General Manager of Cerner Government Services Pat Sargent added that the Monday outage was caused by a system update sent out at around lunchtime.

The executives testified at a congressional hearing held by the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs to examine the future of the VA’s electronic health record modernization program.

The two outages are the latest examples of issues to hit Cerner’s Electronic Health Records system, which went live at the Jonathan M. Wainwright Memorial VA Medical Center in Walla Walla, Washington earlier this month. The entire platform, which serves users across the Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Defense and the U.S. Coast Guard went down for a two-hour period on April 6.

The outages come amid heightened scrutiny of the program from lawmakers over the potential impact of the EHR program rollout on the delivery of healthcare to veterans.

On Monday, Deputy Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs Donald Remy visited the department’s medical center at Spokane and was told that on at least two occasions local veterans had their medications mistakenly stopped due to a problem with health records.

That same day, VA Secretary Denis McDonough said his agency would not need to request more money from Congress to complete the nationwide rollout of the computer system, which is projected to cost at least $16 billion.

The secretary’s remarks followed a report from the VA’s watchdog, which found that the department did not comply with the Federal Acquisition Regulation in at one instance when it paid Cerner for work carried out as part of the contract, and said the program is likely to cost about $2 billion extra for each year it runs behind schedule.

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Cerner, Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), electronic health records (EHRs), OIG
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