DOD launches new EHR system; House committee wants quarterly updates from the VA

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Lawmakers have asked the VA to provider quarterly reports on IT modernization efforts.

After a four-year buildup, the Department of Defense has officially gone live with an upgraded EHR system at an Air Force Base in Washington.

Technical issues forced the Pentagon to push back the rollout of the new system that was expected to launch at Fairchild Air Force Base and Naval Hospital Oak Harbor in December. The new system is now live at Fairchild and running as expected, officials told FCW.

RELATED: OIG: DoD should reevaluate timeline for EHR system

Implementation of the new system was led by Leidos and Cerner, which secured a $4.3 billion contract in June 2015. Even before that contract was awarded, some health IT experts warned that the modernization efforts were “doomed to fail." 

During a House committee hearing this week, officials with the Department of Veterans Affairs highlighted the DOD’s off-the-shelf approach to EHRs as a model for the agency moving forward. Officials said the department plans to look for a commercial solution following years of failed attempts to modernize legacy systems.

RELATED: VA admits past IT failures, turns to commercial solutions

In response, two members of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs issued a letter (PDF) to Rob Thomas, the VA’s acting assistant secretary for information, requesting that the VA provide quarterly updates to the committee regarding major IT programs. During the hearing, David Powner, director of IT management issues at the Government Accountability Office (GAO), told lawmakers they should manage the VA’s process “with a heavy hand” given the agency’s past failures.

The GAO has said full interoperability between the VA and the DOD is "years away." 

RELATED: GAO: Lack of interoperability between DoD, VA health records is 'high risk'

Committee chair Rep. David Roe, R-Tenn., and ranking member Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., also asked Thomas to clarify statements about the VA’s Digital Health Platform, a web-based dashboard that aims to integrate health data from a wide range of sources. The congressmen noted that “no organization has yet been able to produce such a technology, and it would be a monumental achievement,” and wondered whether the system could run alongside a commercial product.

“We expect VA to operate with a higher level of transparency in the future, given the Department’s track record in undertaking major IT projects like the many identified in this letter,” Roe and Walz wrote.