DHS has EHRs for detainees but not employees

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has an electronic health record system for the thousands of illegal immigrants being detained, but evidently not for its own personnel, according to an article in FedScoop.

The agency has no department-wide EHR system; only the Coast Guard has an EHR for its workforce, according to the article, which reviewed an Institute of Medicine report released earlier this year. The report notes that DHS is not fully aware of the informatics capability needed for a health information management system, and needs, among other things, a strategic plan, staff experienced in health information management and an infrastructure in order to improve employees' health and safety.

"Across DHS, health informatics and communication technology is viewed primarily as a strictly tactical resource," the report states. "This perspective is too narrow to meet the current and future mission requirements of the various DHS components. The fields of medical and public health informatics and their applicability to clinical and public health programs are critical to DHS going forward."

The report suggests that DHS look at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs' VistA as an example of an EHR system, as well as at the Coast Guard's struggles with its implementation of a commercial Epic system. The Coast Guard adopted its EHR in 2012.

Funding for a department wide EHR has not been approved, according to the article.

DHS is not the only federal agency in a state of flux regarding its EHRs. The Department of Defense is about to issue a request for proposal for a contract to upgrade its system; several teams of vendors have already expressed interest in vying for that deal.

Additionally, the VA just awarded a contract to modernize VistA. Those two agencies halted plans to create a joint EHR last year; their current plan to at least have interoperable systems is inadequate, according to the Government Accountability Office.

To learn more:
- read the FedScoop article
- view the report