DoD, VA need to beef up joint EHR efforts, GAO says

Despite interoperability gains in the past decade, the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)--which operate the nation's largest healthcare systems--still have more work ahead to meet healthcare providers' needs for improving the exchange of health information, according to a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) study.

In April 2009, the DoD and the VA began planning the Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record (VLER) initiative, which is aimed at streamlining the transitions of electronic medical, benefits, and administrative information between the departments. However, DoD and VA have not stated their explicit plans, goals, and time frames to jointly address the health IT requirements common to both departments' EHR systems, the GAO said.

In addition, the departments' joint strategic plan fails to discuss how or when DoD and VA propose to identify--and develop--joint solutions to address their common health IT needs.

DoD and VA also have not established a joint process for selecting IT investments based on criteria that consider factors including cost, benefit, schedule, and risk elements. This limits their ability to pursue joint health IT solutions that meet their needs and provide better value and benefits to the government as a whole, GAO noted in the report, released Feb. 2.

The departments could improve the likelihood of meeting their goals to implement VLER nationwide by the end of 2012 by developing an approved integrated master schedule, master program plan, and performance metrics consistent with effective IT project management principles, GAO added.

For more details:
- here's the the GAO report