Health IT

VA pushes back on health record oversight bill

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The Department of Veterans Affairs is opposing a Senate plan to establish an advisory board to conduct oversight of the agency's $16 billion, 10-year plan to implement a commercial electronic health record system.

The Department of Veterans Affairs Electronic Health Record Advisory Committee Act, sponsored by Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), the ranking member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, along with Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), would set up a panel of 11 medical and technology specialists and two VA patients from outside government to examine the plans and execution of the move to the Cerner health record platform.

Teresa Boyd, assistant deputy undersecretary for health at the Veterans Health Administration, told the Senate VA committee on May 22 that the project already receives ample oversight from Congress and the Government Accountability Office as well as through other statutory reporting requirements.

Additionally, Boyd said that management of monthly meetings present "unworkable conflicts" given the notice requirements of the Federal Advisory Committee Act.

Veterans service organizations, including the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Disabled Veterans of America, are backing the measure. Adrian Atizado, the deputy national legislative director for DAV, said in written testimony that his organization "agrees that the $16 billion 10-year commitment must not suffer the same setbacks as has unfortunately been known to occur with numerous other VA information technology projects."

This oversight board would not apply to the Department of Defense implementation of the Cerner system, which is designed to be fully interoperable with VA. There's a separate effort underway to create a joint governance structure with a single leader to make decisions across both systems.

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 and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, New York Press, Architect Magazine and other publications.

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


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