VA Faces Patient Safety Concerns with Pharmacy Software, an Ongoing Issue, says Inspector General

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has been grappling with unresolved patient safety issues related to pharmacy software, according to a report by the VA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG). The report highlights concerns with legacy pharmacy software from contractor Oracle Cerner, despite the agency’s efforts to address issues associated with its electronic health record modernization initiative.

The OIG found that Oracle and the VA’s Electronic Health Record Modernization Integration Office failed to test for medication and allergy data accuracy after transmitting the information to the Health Data Repository. As a result, approximately 250,000 veterans may be at risk of medication-related incidents if they visit a legacy EHR site.

During a House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Technology Modernization hearing, VA Deputy Inspector General David Case stressed that incorrect medication information in electronic health records could lead to prescriptions with side effects or ineffectiveness. Subcommittee Chair Matt Rosendale questioned Oracle about the coding errors associated with the Health Data Repository, to which Oracle’s executive vice president, Mike Sicilia, responded that enhancements to the system revealed another issue. However, Sicilia assured that the issue had been fixed and that testing would resume.

These concerns come just before the critical testing phase of the EHRM program, scheduled to begin with the opening of the Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center in North Chicago, Illinois. Despite the ongoing issues, the center will deploy the EHRM program due to the deep interdependencies between the Department of Defense and VA health care systems.

The VA remains hopeful that the system will improve and benefit from the experiences of the Department of Defense, as they share a core EHR system. The department aims to provide a pharmacy module in the new EHR to ensure veterans can receive their medication safely and when needed.

While efforts are being made to address these patient safety concerns, the OIG report highlights the need for continued vigilance and improvement in the VA’s pharmacy software to ensure the utmost safety for veterans utilizing the system.

FAQ:

Q: What patient safety issues is the VA grappling with?
A: The VA is dealing with unresolved patient safety issues related to pharmacy software.

Q: What concerns were raised in a report by the VA’s Office of Inspector General?
A: The report highlights concerns with legacy pharmacy software from contractor Oracle Cerner, specifically related to medication and allergy data accuracy.

Q: How many veterans may be at risk of medication-related incidents?
A: Approximately 250,000 veterans may be at risk if they visit a legacy Electronic Health Record (EHR) site.

Q: What are the potential consequences of incorrect medication information in electronic health records?
A: Incorrect medication information could lead to prescriptions with side effects or ineffectiveness.

Q: What phase of the EHRM program is about to begin?
A: The critical testing phase of the EHRM program is scheduled to begin with the opening of the Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center in North Chicago, Illinois.

Q: Why will the center still deploy the EHRM program despite the ongoing issues?
A: The center will deploy the program due to the deep interdependencies between the Department of Defense and VA health care systems.

Q: How does the VA hope to improve the system?
A: The VA hopes to improve the system by sharing a core EHR system with the Department of Defense and providing a pharmacy module in the new EHR.

Definitions:

1. Legacy pharmacy software: Refers to outdated software used in the VA’s electronic health records system.
2. Electronic health record modernization (EHRM) initiative: Refers to the VA’s efforts to update and improve its electronic health records system.
3. Health Data Repository: Refers to a repository where medication and allergy data is stored.
4. EHR: Abbreviation for Electronic Health Record, which is a digital version of a patient’s paper chart containing their medical history.

Suggested related links:
VA homepage
Oracle Healthcare
HealthIT.gov