DOD, VA prepare recommendation on joint EHR for late March, official says

VA CIO Roger Baker says departments exploring several options for joint EHR

The Veterans Affairs and Defense departments are preparing to make a recommendation by late March on a joint strategy for managing their electronic health records, a senior VA official said today.

The joint strategy has been in development for several months and has considered several options, including possibly creating a single joint digital record system or maintaining some separate elements with common data standards, applications or interfaces, among other choices, Roger Baker, assistant secretary for information and technology at the VA, said today.

“The focus is on principles right now,” Baker said in a conference call with reporters.

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Although DOD and VA executives have been working together on the feasibility of creating a single joint EHR system, it's premature to say a single record system is the sole focus of the recommendations, Baker said.

“We will provide the [department] secretaries with a recommendation on how to move forward together,” Baker said. “It is not necessarily one specific decision… It is premature to say it is one EHR.”

“I think that all the options remain on the table for what the two departments choose to do,” Baker said.

Currently, DOD has the Armed Forces Health Longitudinal Technology Application record system, which is transitioning to the EHR Way Ahead system. The VA has the Veterans Integrated Systems Technology Architecture.

If the two systems are eventually integrated into one, that would give a major boost to the DOD/VA Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record  project that seeks to provide all each service members a seamless record of their benefits and services from enlistment through retirement, Baker added.

“VLER plays into this as well,” Baker said. “If both DOD and VA are using the same EHR, then a huge piece of VLER becomes much easier."

In related news, the VA also is moving on its VistA modernization and recently issued a request for information for an open-source development project for VistA. The VistA modernization work is concurrent with the DOD/VA joint systems efforts, Baker said.

"No matter what happens on a joint system, we need to increase the pace of modernizing VistA," Baker said.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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