DoD, VA closing ground on joint EHRs

The Departments of Defense (DoD) and Veterans Affairs (VA) appear to be moving closer to agreeing on a common electronic health record (EHR) system--and could, perhaps, make an announcement by the end of March.

Both agencies have been under fire recently to reduce duplicative efforts in modernizing their EHR systems. This week, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) said in a new report--"Opportunities to Reduce Potential Duplication in Government Programs"--that both departments could "save system development and operation costs while supporting higher quality healthcare for service members and veterans" if duplication in the EHR area was eliminated.

GAO said that DoD and VA need to established a joint process for selecting IT investments based on criteria that consider cost, benefit, schedule, and risk elements--which would "help to ensure that the chosen solution meets their common health IT needs and provides better value and benefits to the government as a whole."

Whether the VA and DoD will move to a single, integrated EHR is not clear, said VA Chief Information Officer Roger Baker, in a press telebriefing last week.

However, no matter what happens on a joint system with the DoD, "we have to increase the pace of modernizing VistA [the VA's health information system]--and that's why we're exploring the open source avenue to see if that would be useful to us," Baker said, in reference to a recent request for information on creation a VA open source ecosystem.

By late March, Baker and DoD officials are expected to make a recommendation to agency secretaries on how to move forward, he said.

To learn more:
- see the GAO report (.pdf)
- review the FierceGovernmentIT story
- check out the Government Health IT piece