September 14, 2023

Ranking Member Takano’s Opening Statement at Electronic Health Record Program Oversight Hearing

Press Contact

Libby Carlson

WASHINGTON, D.C.— Today, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Ranking Member Mark Takano (CA-39) delivered the following remarks, as prepared, at the beginning of the Full Committee’s oversight hearing on the status and implementation of the Department of Veterans Affairs Electronic Health Record Modernization Program:

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you to the witnesses for being here today to discuss this critical project at the Department of Veterans Affairs.  

I want to start off by welcoming Dr. Evans. This is the first time that we’ve had you before the full committee since you assumed leadership of the EHRM program. The program needs strong and stable leadership, and I am optimistic that you are the person for the job, and I look forward to working with you to ensure that EHRM gets back on track.  

Like most committee members, I was supportive of VA’s announcement of a reset of the EHRM program and the decision to delay any further go-lives while VA and Oracle fix the issues at the five sites currently live on the Cerner system.  

I am concerned, though, to hear that VA is moving forward with the program at the Lovell Federal Health Care Center. While I understand that DoD needs to go live at the Lovell facility to complete its program, I think it is risky to deploy a system that has been so problematic at a facility that is very different from any other facility in VA or DoD.  

We cannot allow DoD to pressure VA into going live prematurely, just so DoD can reach its goals. This program cannot afford another failed go live.  

I am glad to see witnesses from most of the live sites today. I’m hoping to hear about their perceptions about progress with the system. The front-line staff at these facilities have borne the brunt of the struggles with this program. We owe it to them to ensure that their feedback is being taken into consideration as this reset moves forward.  

VA has a major task ahead of it to change the hearts and minds of staff about the benefits and potential success of the program. I hope that the program office is taking its obligations to the front-line staff seriously. 

I am also very concerned that it appears that VA is too busy treating the symptoms of this program to think strategically about preventing these issues from resurfacing at the next facilities to go-live.  

I share ranking member Cherfilus-McCormick’s belief that VA must focus on developing a base-line EHR that minimizes deviations as the program moves forward. I also believe that VA needs a robust governance structure to ensure that any changes made to the baseline are absolutely necessary and are in the best interest of veterans.   

Constant change requests have and will continue to have major impacts on the cost and timeline of the project and will force staff at the active sites to continually adjust their workflows.  

Because of this, and my concerns about the future of the program, I am pleased that Chairman Bost and I have been working together to draft the House’s version of the EHR RESET Act, building on the great work from Chairman Tester in the Senate.  

We have spent a considerable amount of time discussing the struggles with the program and now we need legislative action to force some of the structural and accountability measures that are necessary to get this program on track. It cannot be understated how big this program is, both in terms of cost and scale. But a modern EHR is necessary if we want VA to be able to provide world-class healthcare and for its providers and veterans to be able to access new healthcare technology. 

It is clear that we need to give VA and Congress more tools to manage and oversee this program. I look forward to continuing to work with my House and Senate colleagues to ensure that we get this bill finalized and enacted into law as soon as possible.   

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, I yield back.