Veterans Corner: VA advances Electronic Health Record Modernization program

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By Raymond Taylor | Archuleta County Veterans Service Office

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced its updated plan to move forward with its system-wide Electronic Health Record Modernization (EHRM) program.

The plan will mitigate challenges documented in the Comprehensive Lessons Learned report submitted to Congress after this year’s strategic review of the EHRM program.

“We will do everything we can to get electronic health records right for veterans and our health care staff, with patient safety being the key driver and nonnegotiable,” said VA Deputy Secretary Donald M. Remy. “I have incorporated the lessons learned I received during my recent meetings with our team at Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center in Spokane, Wash., into this new way forward. Under my direction, VA is refining EHR governance and management structures to establish additional rigor and oversight. VA, in coordination with our partners, the Department of Defense and EHR vendor Cerner, will continue to update and refine the EHR implementation process to ensure it delivers the excellence Veterans expect and deserve from VA.”

The VA has developed a revised schedule for how it will roll out the EHR system across the department to early fiscal year 2024. The VA leveraged lessons learned at its initial operating capability sites and incorporated feedback from facility end users, Veterans Integrated Support Network (VISN) leadership, and Veterans Health Administration program offices. Pre-deployment activities are underway in VISNs 10 and 20 while preparing for future fiscal year site deployments in VISNs 12 and 23. VISN 12 includes the joint VA-Department of Defense site in North Chicago, where coordination activities have begun. Future deployments, adjustments and/or modifications to the schedule will be made based on any additional clinical and technical findings and will continuously consider the effects of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The new EHR management structure will be streamlined and supported by a revised program and change management approach that incorporates best practices in communication, risk management, business process, system development life-cycle management and customer experience. Among the critical changes in the management of the EHR program is the establishment of:

• A program executive director (PED) for EHR Integration.

• A significantly strengthened Office of the Functional Champion (OFC).

• A deputy chief information officer (DCIO) for EHR.

The PED, a new position, will report directly to the VA deputy secretary and be responsible for cross-organizational and cross-functional coordination of communication and implementation strategies, to include functional, technical and program management. The PED will have operational control over the offices of Functional Champion, Technical Integration and Program Management, all dedicated to the success of the EHR effort.

The VA secretary has selected Terry Adirim, M.D., M.P.H., M.B.A., to be the PED. Adirim is the principal deputy assistant secretary of defense and is currently serving as the acting assistant secretary of defense for health affairs.

The strengthened OFC is a significant structural change for this new approach and will significantly increase VHA’s engagement and expand the functional champion role and its associated team. The OFC will ensure appropriate clinical involvement that will include having a principal role in processing and resolving patient safety concerns. Additionally, the OFC will help bridge any divides among IT, the EHR vendor and the care delivery teams to ensure the needs of the practicing clinicians and support staff are met.

The DCIO, a new position, will assume all technology integration functions for the program and ensure close bidirectional communication with technical staff at local sites.

The strategic review also identified a need for greater clarity of responsibilities and empowerment of a governance structure that was better able to receive stakeholder input and ensure timely decision making. As a result, the VA has prioritized resolving these issues and is establishing a new EHR Integration Council. The council, chaired by the PED, will ensure decisions are fully coordinated and timely while addressing the need for an operational decision layer at the enterprise level.

For more information about the EHRM effort, see the VA’s Electronic Health Record Comprehensive Lessons Learned update.

Dialing procedure
reminder

Don’t forget the new dialing procedures: Effective Oct. 24, to complete all local calls, you will need to dial area code and telephone number. This means 10 digits for local call. This is required due to the new “988” code for National Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Crisis Lifeline.

Grant allows Vets4Vets to help local veterans 

Vets4Vets of Archuleta County has received a grant from the Colorado Department of Military and Veteran Affairs. This financial grant is to support veterans in our community through the following assistance: housing, utilities, mental health counseling, dental services, travel assistance, automobile repairs, gas and food cards, and emergency veteran assistance. 

Contact Vets4Vets at https://vets4vetspsco.org/ or dharps@gmail.com.

Contact information

Veterans: Thank you for your service. Welcome home.

For further information on VA benefits, please call or stop by the Archuleta County Veterans Service Office (VSO), located at the Pagosa Springs Senior Center in the Ross Aragon Community Center on Hot Springs Boulevard.

The office: (970) 264-4013, fax number: (970) 264-4014, and email is raytaylor@archuletacounty.org. Bring your DD Form 214 (discharge) for applications to VA programs or benefits for which the veteran may be entitled to enroll, and for filing in the Archuleta County VSO. Always leave a message and phone number to contact you.

The following veterans groups meet in Pagosa Springs:

• American Legion Post 108: second Wednesday of the month at 6 p.m., 287 Hermosa St.

• Veterans for Veterans: every Tuesday at 10 a.m., Tennyson Building Event Center, 197 Navajo Trail Drive, on all but the first Tuesday. Breakfast meeting on the first Tuesday of the month at 9 a.m. Contact (970) 799-8387 for more details.

• Combat Veterans PTSD Group: every other Tuesday at noon, Community United Methodist Church, Lewis Street. Contact Gary Hanneman at (970) 946-2540.

• Women’s Group of Spouses of Veterans: first and third Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m., Dr. Carter’s office; contact Charlotte at (970) 903-9690.

Important information

• Vets4Vets: (970) 880-VETS, www.Vets4VetsPSCO.org.

• Durango VA Outpatient Clinic: (970) 247-2214.

• Farmington VA Center: (505) 326-4383.

• VAMC Albuquerque, N.M.: (800) 465-8262.

• VA Health Care Emergency Notification: (844) 724-7842.

The Veterans Crisis Line offers free, confidential support to veterans in crisis, as well as their family and friends 24/7/365. Call (800) 273-8255, chat online or text 838255.