Joint EHR Initiative Requires VA & DoD Cooperation

The electronic health record initiatives (EHR) put forward by both the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Department of Defense (DoD) are falling short on both an individual agency level as well as being a combined effort, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), a congressional investigatory agency. It its most recent review, the GAO found problems with both the VA’s and the DoD’s EHR models at a basic level. Without immediate attention to these problems, very little future progress will be possible.

Instead of working together to form a single EHR, the VA and the DoD are each developing and implementing their own. Seemingly, they plan on integrating these two programs into a single EHR. Further, both agencies see this integration as happening “seamlessly.” To this point, however, neither agency can put forth any method or means for how they will employ information technology (IT) to solve universal problems within health care systems.

The final, single EHR initiative will place certain IT demands on both agencies, but many of those demands will  need to be handled by both agencies working together. Neither the VA nor the DoD has been able to express any detail as to their final policies or procedures for addressing these demands. The GAO also identified a lack of strong steps by both agencies to identify a design that will serve as a guide for “joint I.T. modernization efforts.”

Why the agencies decided to go this path instead of designing a single EHR was not addressed in the GAO’s report. Neither agency has even made a simple plan showing how they will transform from their current I.T. design to where they will need to be in their joint effort. Whatever they plan on doing, it has to work to the benefit of both agencies or the transition will not be as seamless as they think.

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