VA rolls out Cerner EHR in Columbus, following outages

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs announced this week that it had launched its new Cerner electronic health record at the VA Central Ohio Healthcare System in Columbus, Ohio, marking the third rollout of its kind.  

The go-live includes the VA clinics in Grove City, Marion, Newark and Zanesville, said the agency.  

“This electronic health record rollout is an important step in our progress toward a single instance of a medical record connecting VA, the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Coast Guard that will provide all our patients with seamless care from active duty to veteran status,” said program executive director of VA’s Electronic Health Record Modernization Integration Office Dr. Terry Adirim in a statement.   


The VA noted changes it had made with the EHR program since the October 2020 deployment in Spokane, Washington.   

The shifts included adding more computer-based instruction to provide users with more flexibility and autonomy; identifying “super-users” and adding them to activities, such as system demonstrations, workshops and testing; and providing increased over-the-shoulder support during go-lives.  

The Columbus rollout came after several EHR outages at federal clients over the past week, as reported by FedScoop.  

The downtime affected DOD, Coast Guard and VA users, who were unable to access patient records through the system.  

The first incident on Monday lasted for 127 minutes. VA Deputy Chief Information Officer for EHR Modernization Laura Prietula told lawmakers at a congressional hearing Tuesday that it had taken place due to “load imbalance.”  

The second incident on Tuesday lasted for nearly six hours.  

VA did not respond to requests for comment on the outages by press time. However, spokespeople told FedScoop that all systems are now restored and that Cerner is investigating the cause of the issue.  

“Cerner continues to work closely with our federal partners to address any and all concerns. This includes immediate response to system outages,” said Pat Sargent, general manager of Cerner Government Services, in a statement to Healthcare IT News.   

“We view any downtime, however brief, as unacceptable and remain committed to empowering the delivery of timely, high-quality care to service members, veterans, and their families through a modern, interoperable electronic health record,” Sargent continued.

This past week, the VA Office of the Inspector General also released a report saying VA had not complied with the Federal Acquisition Regulation in at least one instance when it paid Cerner for work related to the EHR modernization initiative.  


The outages echoed an incident from April in which VA, DOD and Coast Guard clients of the new Cerner EHR found themselves unable to update medical records for hours.  

In turn, that incident followed a system outage in March that took the EHR offline at VA hospitals, potentially affecting the records of more than 200 veterans.

Still, the launch of the new EHR at Walla Walla on March 26 went forward as planned, with officials saying they were “excited for this new journey.”


“With each VA site that adopts this system, we gain momentum. The lessons we carry forward from site to site are refining our rollouts and improving end-user experiences,” said Adirim in a statement.

Kat Jercich is senior editor of Healthcare IT News.
Twitter: @kjercich
Email: [email protected]
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.

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