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Report: Software flaws lead to 'patient harm' for nearly 150 military veterans

Lawmakers say electronic health record system failures "cannot be tolerated."

WASHINGTON — Software flaws in the Department of Veterans Affairs' new electronic patient records system caused nearly 150 cases of patient harm, according to the VA Office of Inspector General.

In a scathing report, the IG says the system botched more than 11,000 orders for specialty care, lab work and other services.   

Referrals for vets from the Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center in Spokane, Washington sent to specialty care providers, laboratory procedures, diagnostic imaging and other follow-up services went missing, vanishing into an “unknown queue," causing 149 instances of patient harm between October 2020 and June 2021.

The IG report said most of the cases were classified as "moderate harm"--such as wrong patient genders being listed, or, veterans not getting their prescriptions on time-- and said two cases were classified as "major harm."

"This episode is concerning because if we had not dug into their data, it's likely you, VA leaders and the public would not have learned the truth," said David Case, Deputy Inspector General, Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General.

Members of the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Technology Modernization in a hearing Wednesday said the failures are unacceptable.

"I am even more troubled that the VA seems to want to minimize or ignore the fact that veterans have been hurt by this system. This cannot be tolerated," said Rep John Mrvan (D-Indiana).

"Patient harm has happened. VA's list of patients safety events include numerous cases of vital medication refills being delayed," said Rep Matt Rosendale (R-Montana).

"I want to be absolutely clear. I will not sit idly by and allow this program to endanger veterans," said Rep Mark Takano (D-California).

"If we don't see major progress by early next year when the VA says they intend to roll Cerner out to larger sites, we will have to seriously consider pulling the plug," said Rep Mike Bost (R-Illinois).

The new health records system was originally supposed to cost $10 billion.

Now, the Institute for Defense Analysis estimates the true cost will be more than $56 billion by the time it's completed over 28 years.

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