Veterans Affairs

VA leaders cite progress on health record interoperability

LaVerne Horton Council

VA CIO LaVerne Council is rethinking the business case for the agency's electronic health record.

The under secretary for health at the Department of Veterans' Affairs testified before Congress that VA is operational when it comes to sharing electronic health records with the Department of Defense. And though the departments will have the systems fully integrated by 2018, they will most likely not be getting off the Government Accountability Office "high risk" list when it comes to this specific issue.

"You don't come off the GAO list very quickly," David Shulkin told the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies on March 3. "We hope that we are making good enough progress."

Congress required the two departments to certify that their health record systems were interoperable in the 2014 defense spending bill. The Pentagon offered its certification in November 2015, while VA CIO LaVerne Council told House appropriators on March 2 that the VA would certify later this month.

Council also had something of a bombshell for lawmakers. She said it was time to "take a step back" from the planned modernization of the VA's homegrown Vista health record. That modernization plan, conceived in 2014, has been overtaken by new developments in the VA's health care delivery plan, including increased focus on mobility, security, women's health and connections with private sector providers, she said.

Council said bluntly, "we have not made up our minds" about what to do about Vista. A review of the business case for the electronic health record could point to several possibilities, including an upgrade of Vista or a shift to an off-the-shelf capability. 

She did stress that the interoperability deadlines were not affected by the review of the Vista Evolution program, and said that data mapping to support interoperability for the forthcoming Defense Department system and the VA's Electronic Health Management Platform, a web-based Vista interface, would be done by August of this year.

"We need to make sure we have laid out the plan and strategy so everyone can understand exactly what we are doing and why we are doing it," Council said.

About the Author

Aisha Chowdhry is a former staff writer for FCW.


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