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Cerner federal news

Transforming EHR training to improve care for Veterans

Published on 10/4/2019

Estimated read time: 5 minutes

Cerner and selected partners are working with our government clients to transform care for nearly 18 million American Veterans, Service members and their families.

Our journey began in 2015 with the Leidos Partnership for Defense Health in support of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), and quickly expanded last year with the start of our Electronic Health Record Modernization (EHRM) program with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Together, these programs provide a significant opportunity to improve health care nationwide at an unprecedented scale.

This is the first blog in a three-part series, which will dive into important elements of our nation’s largest health system transformation.

Key takeaways

  • Our clients have made historic progress toward achieving a lifetime of seamless care for Veterans, Service members and their families.
  • Innovations being developed with our federal clients will benefit all Cerner clients.
  • VA EHRM is on-track to go live in March 2020 with a robust set of capabilities.
  • A new approach to training is preparing select VA users to maximize the electronic health record (EHR) and drive innovation systemwide.
  • VA Innovative Technology Advancement Lab (VITAL) training will improve VA end-user adoption, and it’s a methodology all Cerner clients can use.

Training EHR users to solve big problems and drive adoption

As one VA clinician recently said, “Veterans have a saying that if you’ve seen one VA, you’ve seen one VA.”

VistA, VA’s legacy EHR, was transformative and produced innovations that benefited clinicians and health systems around the world. But it also led to some challenges. For instance, across the VA system, not all data sets are standardized and may not be stored as efficiently as possible, making it more difficult to provide consistent care.

A new EHR can increase reliability and reduce latency. It can display information better and improve workflows. All are important. But clinicians and staff won’t enthusiastically adopt new technology unless it empowers them to solve big problems for patients, which is why we co-launched VITAL.

Over a 12- to-18-month period, VITAL brings together VA clinicians and frontline staff for four multiday in-person sessions, as well as monthly virtual sessions. As VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said, “VA established VITAL to specially train staff who can identify possible challenges and work across the entire VA organization to make improvements.”

Participants in VITAL learn to optimize their new EHR’s tools and solutions, including its advanced analytics capabilities. Then they apply their learning through a capstone project of their choice to solve real problems facing Veteran patients.

Staff from varied roles are selected for each VITAL cohort. The first cohort brought together 76 VA staff members who represent 43 point-of-care clinical and support roles. The large majority were from two sites where we’re on track to go live next year: Mann Grandstaff VA Medical Center and the VA Puget Sound Health Care System.

Standardizing data to improve the consistency of care systemwide is just the beginning. The first cohort has also taken on projects to reduce readmissions for specific chronic conditions and more. Participants were engaged in the sessions and had positive feedback. At the upcoming Cerner Health Conference (CHC) 2019, we'll share how our commercial clients can adopt this methodology.

As we approach the first VA go-live, VITAL graduates will be joined by colleagues completing other elements of our comprehensive training program. Based on lessons learned from DoD and industry best practices, we’ve developed a suite of role-based trainings for end users focused on the knowledge each needs.

End-user training supports the way each user learns through instructor-led classes, eLearning modules, self-paced learning and “over-the-shoulder” training. For super users, we've enhanced training and practice with EHRM workflows to support their peers through training and go live and into long-term sustainment. This is just the beginning; VA is committed to continuous innovation and improvement as we roll out the new EHR nationwide to VA’s 320,000 health care workers.

It’s all about people

Technology is a critical component of any EHR modernization. But a successful implementation primarily relies on one thing: people.

EHRM is building user excitement for the new system through a comprehensive training that’s geared to each user’s needs and how they learn best, as well as with VITAL-developed innovations to solve big problems. The analytical tools that VITAL participants are learning to use have so much potential to improve care because they’re operating with an unrivaled data set – records for millions of Veteran patients that span decades.

As we gain momentum, we can help VA realize the unlimited potential of EHRM. A single implementation worldwide means one VITAL graduate’s insights can quickly improve care across the entire VA system. As the largest educator of health care professionals, VA’s training innovations will have an impact well beyond its walls.

VA providers are transforming the way they deliver care, with the ambition to “revolutionize health care for all.” Cerner associates are honored to be on this journey with our client to serve America’s Veterans. I hope you’ll join us at CHC19 next week to learn more about these historic programs and how we can all benefit from the work being done.

At CHC 2019, DoD and VA leaders will highlight the historic progress they have made toward providing a lifetime of seamless care for Veterans, Service members and their families. From combating opioid abuse and suicide to innovative approaches to end-user adoption, you won’t want to miss these DoD and VA CHC sessions.