VA puts out call for deputy CMOs to help guide EHR modernization

The Office of Electronic Health Record Modernization at the U.S. Department of Veterans is looking for a few good men or women to help ensure its landmark Cerner EHR implementation is rolled out with clinical integrity – and optimal interoperability with the Department of Defense.

The department is seeking candidates – who will be based in St. Louis, Seattle and Washington, D.C. – to be Deputy Chief Medical Officers for the massive $10 billion rollout, and it seems to be focused especially on how the system built over the next decade will sync with the DoD’s own Cerner project, MHS-Genesis.

VA sees deputy CMOs as key leaders to “execute informatics strategy and closely coordinate with DoD peers,” according to a blog post. They’ll be tasked with helping manage the annual budget of $68 billion for the project and ensuring the provision of top-quality care for some 9 million veterans.

The department is looking for physician leaders who are “broadly familiar with clinical treatment modalities, administrative and clinical support systems and multifaceted healthcare delivery systems,” and says leadership skills, communication, clinical know-how and experience in IT and informatics – as well as an understanding of larger healthcare policy – will be key.

In addition, VA is looking candidates who are able to share “best practices, processes, structures and policies” with DoD to enable lasting improvements in the way both departments use EHRs; oversee the change management and training to ensure clinical end users are comfortable with the new workflows; work with other VA leadership to implement changes as needed and “manage and monitor budgets and productivity improvements.”

This past spring, an array of major challenges with the DoD’s EHR modernization came to light, with many IT, training and workflow hiccups reportedly causing inaccurate prescriptions, misdirected patient referrals and other complaints that clinicians said could put patient safety at risk. One oversight report slammed MHS Genesis for its “poor system usability” and “insufficient training.”

The VA appears to be trying to forstall similar problems here by bulking up its own clinical leadership, making hires for several key locales – and ensuring they have the skills to guide leadership, IT staff and clinicians toward a smoother implementation.

Part of the DoD’s challenges seemed to stem from the fact that its “original change management and training structure focused a little too much on how to use the system and not enough on how the workflow will differ from legacy,” explained Stacy Cummings, program executive officer for Defense Healthcare Management Systems, in a podcast with Cerner.

Both the VA and Cerner seem intent on not repeating the DoD’s mistakes.

“Cerner and the agency are committed to applying commercial best practices, as well as any lessons learned from our DoD experience, to the VA’s Electronic Health Record Modernization program,” said Travis Dalton, president of Cerner Government Services, in an update this past October. “The VA has unique challenges and it’s critical that end-users and stakeholders are engaged throughout the implementation process.”

“OEHRM is setting a new standard in the development of electronic health records and in the seamless sharing of patient data between VA and DoD,” said Darren Sherrard, associate director of recruitment and marketing at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. “OEHRM leaders will be at the forefront of this transformation, which promises to drive better clinical outcomes by giving providers a fuller picture of Veterans’ medical histories.”

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

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