Critical Read

GAO: DOD, VA need to move on interoperable health records

doctor and laptop

WHAT: GAO report on progress toward interoperable VA and DoD health records

WHY: In February 2013, the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs scrubbed an ambitious $9 billion plan to create an integrated electronic health record system in favor of maintaining separate, interoperable systems. The revised plan called for the VA to modernize its homegrown EHR system (the Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture, or VistA), and for the Defense Department to replace its legacy EHR system with a commercial solution.

The departments have yet to put in place cost and schedule estimates for the revised plan, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office. Additionally, an Interagency Program Office  that was tasked with running the project is limited to coming up with joint data and integration standards, and lacks control over its budget and staffing. The GAO is seeking improvements in program management and clear lines of responsibility for implementing an interoperable health care record for the departments, which deliver care to a population of 16 million veterans and active-duty service members.

VERBATIM: "While the departments have begun planning for these separate systems, they have yet to develop plans describing what a future interoperable health record will consist of or how, when, and at what cost it will be achieved. Further, even though VA and DOD have determined that their electronic health record system needs overlap, the departments have neither removed long-standing barriers to working together to address their common needs nor positioned the Interagency Program Office for effective collaboration going forward." 

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy, health IT and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mr. Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian started his career as an arts reporter and critic, and has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, Architect magazine, and other publications. He was an editorial assistant and staff writer at the now-defunct New York Press and arts editor at the online network in the 1990s, and was a weekly contributor of music and film reviews to the Washington Times from 2007 to 2014.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.

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