The top Veterans Affairs official overseeing its embattled electronic health records overhaul effort will step down at the end of the month, department leaders announced Friday.
Dr. Terry Adirim, director of VA’s Electronic Health Record Modernization Integration Office, will depart Feb. 25 to “pursue other opportunities” outside the department, VA Deputy Secretary Donald Remy said in a message to employees. She has been in that post since December 2021.
Adirim’s departure was first reported by FedScoop earlier on Friday.
Officials have not announced a permanent replacement for her. Dr. Neil Evans, senior adviser for the Office of Information and Technology, will serve as acting program director until a candidate is identified, Remy said in his message.
The move comes amid significant scrutiny and controversy surrounding the records modernization program, a 10-year, $16 billion effort that has drawn the ire of lawmakers and some VA staffers over the past year.
The work began in 2018 and has already cost about $4 billion. But last October, VA leaders announced that all future deployments of Oracle Cerner’s Millennium records platform would be delayed until at least June 2023 “to address challenges with the system and make sure it is functioning optimally for veterans and for VA health care personnel.”
The software has only been deployed to five medical centers out of the 171 in the VA healthcare system. But physicians at those sites have reported numerous frustrations and serious concerns with the change, and a VA inspector general report found at least 148 veterans were harmed by medical record mistakes and shortfalls at those sites.
Earlier this week, Oracle executives defended the system as the only reasonable path ahead for putting servicemembers and veterans onto the same health records platform, and promised improvements in system operations and usability in coming months.
VA officials have not publicly committed to a restart date.
In his message to employees, Remy acknowledged that the records upgrade so far “has been challenging for VA’s health care personnel and has not provided the enhanced outcomes that veterans expected.”
But he also praised Adirim’s work on the project, calling her an effective and caring leader.
“Through her efforts and leadership, VA has been making progress in these areas by improving standardization and usability of the system,” he wrote.
Evans previously served as VA’s top acting official for technology and currently works as chief officer for the Office of Connected Care, which oversees issues like VA telehealth options and other digital health care capabilities. He has served in VA for more than 20 years.
Lawmakers have promised hearings and intense oversight on the electronic records issue in coming months, which could mean multiple appearances for Evans before Congress.
In addition, several Republican lawmakers have already introduced legislation to pause or cancel the records modernization effort, questioning whether the project can ever be a success.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.