GAO report catalogs VA/DOD health data sharing projects

Report: VA and DOD Health Care: Opportunities to Maximize Resource Sharing Remain

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The departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs have started more than a dozen projects involving health data exchanges and shared systems for health care, according to a Government Accountability Office report released March 20.

The report, “VA and DOD Health Care: Opportunities to Maximize Resource Sharing Remain,” covers information technology projects and other efforts, such as shared hospitals and clinics.

It scolds the two departments for failing to collaborate in more areas, especially procurement of medical services. It also states that the VA and DOD need to assess the performance of each collaborative project. Department officials told GAO they largely concurred with the report.

The largest project GAO cataloged is a $14.8 million effort to exchange medical records, led by the VA’s Puget Sound Health Care System and the Army’s Madigan Medical Center, both in Washington state.

In addition, the two departments are spending $4.5 million to create a joint online medical and surgical supplies catalog. According to the project plan, the catalog will allow the VA and DOD to make the most of their buying power for such products by using negotiated volume purchase contracts.

The Veterans Health Administration and DOD’s Tricare Management Activity are also spending $2.5 million to redesign their beneficiary health Web portals so that they resemble each other and comply with accessibility standards.

The South Texas Veterans Health Care System and two DOD hospitals in Texas, the Wilford Hall Medical Center and the Brooke Army Medical Center, are spending $3.4 million on a pilot project to exchange clinical images and related patient data.

Two projects involving the departments’ budget and financial systems will determine what system changes are necessary for billing and other business processes to support joint operations. Those projects total almost $9 million.

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