Thursday, February 7, 2013

VA, DoD pull back on electronic health records

The Defense and Veterans Affairs departments are abandoning ambitious plans to create a single shared electronic health records system in favor of a less expensive one built on existing technology, DoD and VA announced Feb. 5.

Since 2008, when Congress ordered the departments to create a seamless system of lifetime health records that would follow troops from recruitment to grave, the DoD/VA Interagency Program Office has worked to develop and deploy an integrated electronic health record system by 2017 at an estimated cost of $4 billion.  But the massive endeavor has met technology challenges and delays. To trim costs and speed up portions of the initiative, the agencies have decided to build a system based on existing programs.

The Defense Department currently uses the DoD Composite Health Care System for its electronic records, while VA uses the Veterans Health Information System and Technology Architecture, or VISTA. The new effort will allow physicians at seven VA polytrauma facilities and two DoD facilities — Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and San Antonio Military Medical Center — to view clinical information across a common interface by July.

It also will allow VA and DoD to exchange real-time data by the end of the year and permit all patients to download their medical records from any computer by May, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said.  “Rather than building a single integrated system from scratch, we will focus our immediate efforts on integrating VA and DoD health data as quickly as possible. This approach is affordable, it’s achievable,” Panetta said.