Late Breaking News
DoD, VA Seek Earlier Joint EHR Rollout
- Categorized in: Department of Defense (DoD), Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Depression, February 2013, PTSD, Sleep, TBI
By Sandra Basu
WASHINGTON — Then-Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta and VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki asked for a plan to speed up integration of electronic health records late last year.
They are seeking earlier systemwide rollout than 2017, after testing in 2014 at San Antonio, TX, and Hampton Roads, VA, facilities. Whether that can occur remains unclear.
“What we said is that we want to be able to meet or beat the schedule that we've established as targets here. We’ve asked that that plan be presented to us by early January. We’ve got to do everything we can to move this on a more expeditious path,” Panetta said.
Panetta made his comments late last year at a press conference held after a meeting with Shinseki to discuss joint efforts on a range of issues.
“If servicemembers, veterans and their families are to get the kind of seamless experience that they deserve, then our job — secretary of Veterans Affairs and secretary of Defense — our job is to make very clear that there has got to be good cooperation at all levels,” Panetta said.
Shinseki said the agencies have “more to do,” but are working closer together than ever.
“We’ve underwritten joint VA-DoD medical facilities where they make sense,” Shinseki said. “We’ve begun harmonizing our acquisition decisions. We’ve committed both departments to a single, common, joint, integrated electronic health record, the iEHR, which will be open in architecture and nonproprietary in design. Today, veterans wait too long to receive the benefits they have earned, and that’s why together we’re streamlining our processes, sharing more information between our departments.”
The development and acquisition of the joint iEHR is seen as a critical element in allowing the agencies to work together more effectively. Federal officials have also said that this type of seamless information sharing will ensure continuity of care for patients and also will help speed the processing of disability claims in the future.
A November GAO report, “Recovering Servicemembers and Veterans: Sustained Leadership Attention and Systematic Oversight Needed to Resolve Persistent Problems Affecting Care and Benefits,” suggests that even meeting a 2017 implementation deadline could prove challenging for the agencies, especially with the 54 joint capabilities the joint EHR is expected to provide by then
That report said one of the reasons for limited progress is lack of staff and budget control by an office designated as the single point of accountability for the effort.
In October 2011, however, the office was rechartered, allowing for more staff and new authority over funds.
“According to Interagency Program Office officials, budget control is the essential component for overseeing progress and ensuring accountability for the departments’ efforts,” the report stated. “With the enhanced charter, as well as plans for an expanded staff to oversee the implementation of a single joint electronic health record system, the Interagency Program Office will have more resources to draw upon and support department interoperability initiatives.”
Even with this investment of resources, the report stated, it was too early to determine if this would allow the office to meet a 2017 implementation deadline, adding, “For example, despite the provision of additional resources, Interagency Program Office officials told us that as of July 2012, the office is staffed at approximately 48% and that hiring additional staff in time to meet appointed implementation deadlines remains one of its biggest challenges.”