VA, Pentagon Commit to Joint E-health Records

But agencies still working out how to merge systems

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the U.S. Department of Defense last week said they have agreed to develop a joint electronic health records (EHR) system.

But officials from the VA and DOD indicated at a congressional hearing that the two agencies still haven’t figured out exactly how to meld the separate health records technologies they now use.

In identical comments submitted at the hearing held by the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, VA Deputy Secretary Gordon Mansfield and David Chu, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, said the agencies see “an opportunity to explore a ‘born seamless’ approach for a joint inpatient EHR.”

Analysis Planned

But Mansfield added that there are some known differences between the VA’s and DOD’s health care data, processes and requirements. A planned analysis “will identify the areas of commonality and the areas of uniqueness” and then determine the potential benefits and downsides of deploying a common EHR system, Mansfield said.

Last week’s announcement came seven months after the Government Accountability Office issued a report calling on the VA and DOD to improve their efforts to standardize health records. The GAO said the agencies had made some progress in sharing data about patients who receive care from both departments. But the agencies had yet to develop a clearly defined project management plan, it added.

Chu testified last week that the DOD “is aware of the concerns regarding the time it has taken to establish the desired level of interoperability.”

The ultimate goal, Chu said, is to create health care records that can be accessed and used by doctors “regardless of which health care system they are operating within.”

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