VA’s new electronic health record (EHR) is saving lab staff hours of work each day at the Jonathan M. Wainwright Memorial VA Medical Center, in Walla Walla, Washington.

The new EHR, launched March 26 at the facility, has freed lab staff from manually processing thousands of specimens a day – entries that had to be double verified by a second staff member, said Philip T. Monk, laboratory manager.

“This amounted to about three hours every morning,” Monk said. “With the new EHR, all the reference labs are interfaced, so there is a complete digital tracking system. They know when information is received, when labs are received, etcetera. Things have been going extremely well. Our team is quietly optimistic.”

Implementing an improved system, however, meant ignoring the negative narrative about the challenges of VA’s transition to the new EHR.

“Our focus was on how we could prepare for it, and to take the problems as they came, not base [our experience] on what others said would be a problem,” Monk said.

He and his staff also aggressively pursued as much training as possible, as early as possible.

“I front-loaded as many people as the lab could spare into super user training,” he said, referring to the more advanced users of a system tapped to help train their peers.

Even though only a few members of each department were required to attend super-user training, Monk encouraged his team to attend as much training as possible, so they would understand the ins and outs of the system – based on the commercial Cerner Millennium platform – before it launched.

Having several super users onboard also meant his lab staff could identify potential challenges early and adjust their processes.

Challenges

However, the team’s training experiences haven’t been without challenges.

“Cerner training is pretty good, but it’s like describing all the parts of the bicycle without teaching you how to ride the bike,” Monk said.

So Monk’s team organized the “bike parts” and adapted them for their job and environment. He shared this knowledge with others, including visiting Walla Walla’s community-based outpatient clinic representatives and walking them through how to do their day-to-day work in a new way.

“As the training unfolded, we were able to pinpoint the processes that we needed to change in order to work with the new system,” he added.

Fortunately, at-the-elbow support from Cerner and VHA experts to address concerns “has been phenomenal,” he said. Things are going smoothly, because of on-site support and his staff’s dedication to making process tweaks based on thorough training.

Finally, Monk said, patient interactions take a little longer under the new system, but that does not trouble him because of the improvements the lab has gained in tracking and processing specimens.

“The lab needs more time with patients with the new EHR, but definitely the lab will net back that time,” Monk said.

By Submitted by staff from VA's EHRM Integration Office

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Published on May. 25, 2022

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12 Comments

  1. VA EHRM IO Staff June 9, 2022 at 11:18 am

    Thank you for sharing your experience. If your facility has transitioned to VA’s new EHR, we recommend visiting your medical facility website and clicking Programs > My VA Health for more information and resources on how to use the new patient portal. If your facility is still actively using My HealtheVet, please visit the My HealtheVet webpage for more information and support: https://www.myhealth.va.gov/mhv-portal-web/how-to-use-mhv.

  2. Abeer hamid May 30, 2022 at 10:42 pm

    It has cut productivity in half if not more..and the total cost of contract is 14 billion..nothing has worked correctly with the computer programs..I had to wait over 3 hours to get my prescription because the program wasn’t working right.i have heard staff saying that even the fax machines don’t work properly….since it takes longer for my provider to work with this program I get less time with my provider..nothing is good about this at all..now I don’t even see the staff smiling anymore so I don’t think they are happy with it either

    • VA EHRM IO Staff June 9, 2022 at 11:14 am

      Thank you for sharing your experience, Abeer. We apologize that you had to wait a long time for your prescription and had less time with your provider. We would like to learn more about your recent appointment so we can make improvements. If you are willing, please call your medical center’s patient advocate. They can file a complaint on which we can follow up. This will help us better understand how VA’s new EHR rollout is impacting you and other Veterans. Thanks again for your help and we appreciate your patience. Respectfully, VA Electronic Health Record Modernization Integration Office Staff.

  3. Phillip May 30, 2022 at 1:08 am

    May 29, 2022

    I’m a Navy veteran that recently had severe issues with my service-connected conditions. I called my primary care (PC) doctor at the VA clinic in Plano, TX (about 13 miles from my house in north Texas); and was told my PC had been moved to the VA clinic in Garland, TX (about 40 miles from my house in North Texas) because the Plano Clinic was closed due to the new computer system being down. I was told that they didn’t know when the system would be back up so I would have to drive to the Garland clinic to be seen by my PC. I went there and my PC said there was nothing he could do because I needed xrays and a mri and the clinic (which looked like a large hospital) didn’t have the xray or mri machinery. He (my PC) said I had to drive to the main Dallas VA emergency room (about 30 or 40 miles away) to see an er doctor and that they would have to order the scans, I needed. Now, I was in excruciating pain. I was there about 4 hours got and xray but not the mri. They said that they couldn’t read the results and that that was for my PC to do (who couldn’t be reached by the er doctor). This debacle took over a total if about 8 or 9 hours plus more than 120 mile drive. I thank God my wife drove me because I was in no shape to drive myself. This new computer system the VA is using is a total waste of tax payer money and a tremendous danger to we Veteran patients. As, well as the private sector operates their systems you would think that the VA would have been a leading medical facility with it’s huge budget and personnel. I’m really disappointed at the response from VA leadership with this. I was also told that if they sent me through ‘community care, with VA then it would take at least 2 months to get my xrays and mri to my PC and thats why they were sending me to the main Dallas VA emergency room. How can this actually be real?? They’re killing us and no one seems to care. How can this be going on and not be a national response???

    • VA EHRM IO Staff June 9, 2022 at 11:15 am

      Thank you for sharing your experience, Phillip. VA’s new EHR is not currently in use at the VA clinic in Plano, Texas. We do recommend that you contact your facility’s patient advocate (https://www.va.gov/north-texas-health-care/health-services/patient-advocates/). They are specially trained to help you resolve issues with your care and may provide you with a resolution or explanation. Respectfully, VA Electronic Health Record Modernization Integration Office Staff.

  4. Charles Bourg May 27, 2022 at 11:55 am

    This is a total lie, VA needs to dump this system. It’s killing vets and needs to be stopped before more die. Congress do your job, shut it down.

  5. Tiffany May 26, 2022 at 2:34 pm

    Transition to Genesis is designed for easy record management from military and VA. So… if it’s the same EHR system, that means it increases phlebotomy work per patient by a lot. What used to take 10 minutes turns into a 1-2 hr wait at military medical center, and hour was about average for my VA.

    I’m pretty sure this is a lie

    • VA EHRM IO Staff June 9, 2022 at 11:16 am

      Thank you for sharing your experience with MHS GENESIS. We agree that a single system across VA, DOD, USCG and participating community providers will enable easier health record management. If you experience long wait times for lab work, or any kind of appointment, please contact your medical center’s patient advocate. They can file a complaint on which we can follow up. This will help us better understand how VA’s new EHR rollout is impacting you and other Veterans. Thanks again for your help and we appreciate your patience. Respectfully, VA Electronic Health Record Modernization Integration Office Staff.

  6. Alan Bombria May 26, 2022 at 12:04 pm

    LOL. When it’s up. No amount of lipstick is gonna make that pig easier to kiss, VA!

  7. Edward Boone May 26, 2022 at 7:32 am

    More VA propaganda. Law Makers and VA hospital employees have sounded off how the EHR, that has cost $10 billion, has went down several of times, has issues of increases wait times, and deleting patient record. Things are not going smoothly with EHR.

  8. Charles Hannert May 25, 2022 at 6:25 pm

    It doesn’t bother Monk that it puts more burden on the patients ! Personally I am too old to give up what little time of my life is left. Monk is a selfish lazy s–. My lab people are great. Get rid of Monk !

  9. Charles Hannert May 25, 2022 at 6:19 pm

    My lab appointments don’t show up on MyHealtheVet. Why not ? Those appointments not being on MyHealtheVet make it a lot harder to collect mileage and to get reminders of the appointments. Everyone I have talked to doesn’t know why and keeps just passing the buck. Lazy people in my opinion.

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