VA official warns electronic health record research functionality issue may affect other medical centers

Dr. Shereef Elnahal says research functionality concerns at the Ann Arbor health system will need to be addressed at other VA clinics.
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, VA Medical Center Drive, Ann Arbor, Michigan (Image credit: Wikimedia / Dwight Burdette)

A Department of Veterans Affairs official said on Tuesday that it’s possible there will be additional delays in the rollout of its Oracle Cerner electronic health record platform due to concerns over how it interacts with medical research systems.

The VA last week announced a further delay of the EHR rollout within the Ann Arbor Healthcare System until late 2023 or early 2024 due to concerns about how well the health record system would interact with the Ann Arbor hospital’s vital medical research mission.

During a media roundtable, VA Under Secretary for Health Dr. Shereef Elnahal told FedScoop that if the medical research issues with the EHR are not fixed, similar concerns could arise at other other VA hospitals.

“So there are many VA medical centers that are heavy with clinical research because of their academic affiliations,” Dr. Elnahal said. “And so those centers will need this research functionality. It’s not just an issue with the Ann Arbor Hospital.” Dr. Shereef Elnahal, VA Under Secretary for Health


He added the full EHR deployment schedule was still being deliberated within the VA.

When asked about the current state of cybersecurity and veteran health data security within the VA, Dr. Elnahal told FedScoop that the VA’s Office of Information Technology has a special team focused on such issues led by Chief Information Officer Kurt Delbene. 

“He has a team focused on this and our agency is regularly engaged with interagency discussions after major cybersecurity incidents. And we are always trying to be proactive in limiting that risk,” said Dr. Elnahal.

He highlighted that the VA’s use of two different EHR systems has created additional difficulties and complexities to security within the agency. Most VA hospitals currently still run on the Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture (VistA) while the VA has rolled out the new Oracle Cerner EHR to five VA hospitals in the past two years with more rollouts expected later this year.

“Right now, as you know, we’re dealing with two different EHRs currently in place in our system. And so we have to contend with those risks, instance by instance, and make sure that the entire network is secure,” Dr. Elnahal said.


The Oracle Cerner EHR has faced grave performance issues since it was rolled out to five locations in October 2020, with repeated outages that, according to agency’s watchdog, have resulted in serious harm to veterans.

The implementation of VA’s new EHR system is expected to be delayed from its original estimates by at least one to two years while the cost has ballooned to be tens of billions more than originally estimated.

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