The U.S. Senate unanimously passed the VA Electronic Health Record Transparency Act of 2021 this past week, and the bill’s next stop is the desk of President Joe Biden to be signed into law.

The aim of the legislation, drafted by Sens. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., and Jon Tester, D-Mont., top-ranking members of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, is to require more clarity, transparency and accountability around the Veterans Affairs department’s ongoing Electronic Health Record Modernization program, which has faced a rocky rollout thus far. 

Eight Republican senators and seven Democrats co-sponsored the bipartisan bill, which calls on the VA to submit periodic reports to Congress detailing the costs, performance metrics and outcomes around the EHR deployment.

U.S. Representatives Mark Takano, D-Calif., Mike Bost, R-Ill., and Frank J. Mrvan, D-Ind., introduced companion legislation that passed the U.S. House of Representatives last November.

The VA Office of Inspector General published a series of reports in 2021 that flagged some significant concerns around the deployment of the EHRM program. 

OIG found that VA had underestimated the cost of the massive rollout by billions. It cited unreliable IT infrastructure estimates and training deficiencies, and said the EHR scheduling system needed work.

Since then, the challenges have continued with the Cerner rollout, and members of both houses of Congress have called for slowdowns and new approaches.

In February, U.S. Government Accountability Office said the VA didn’t adequately ensure quality of migrated data in the switchover from VistA.

In May, even as work continued in Ohio, new reports showed dozens of slowdowns and outages since for the system in Washington State.

“Providing our veterans with seamless, high-quality care means making sure the electronic health record system is hitting the mark – for vets, for their families, and for taxpayers,” said Tester in a statement about the Transparency Act’s unanimous passage.

“This bill is now on its way to the President’s desk. I’m hopeful he signs it into law without delay so Congress is able to exercise strengthened oversight over this program, ensuring it delivers lasting value to the VA medical staff and veterans who use it.”

“The potential benefits of this program are tremendous, and we have to get it right,” Moran added. “This legislation, and soon to be law, will ensure the VA is providing the proper transparency throughout the EHRM implementation to better allow this committee to conduct oversight during the deployment process to ensure veterans receive the care they deserve and hold the VA accountable for taxpayer dollars.”

Twitter: @MikeMiliardHITN
Email the writer: [email protected]

Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS publication.

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