House committee provides funds to 'jumpstart' iEHR

The House Appropriations Committee fully supports the development of a joint electronic health record system for the U.S. Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, so long as that system is open architecture, Nextgov reports.

In its version of the VA's spending bill for fiscal year 2014, the committee allocates $344 million to "jumpstart" development efforts. The project, to date, has been plagued by poor communication.

In February, budget cuts and time constraints were cited as reasons for abandoning the creation of a brand new joint EHR system for use by the two agencies from scratch. Last month, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said that lack of understanding regarding the creation of an integrated health record system led him to block DoD from issuing a request for proposals on the project in March.

Also in April, it was revealed that despite the White House's public desire to use open standards to create an integrated electronic health record system to serve both agencies, DoD, for years, resisted such an approach. In a memo sent on March 28--but made public last month--to Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, J. Michael Gilmore, director of operational test and evaluation at DoD, called his agency's approach "manifestly inconsistent" with that of the White House. He explained that DoD's anti-open standards stance was a product of the "incorrect assumption" that the VA's VistA software would be forced upon DoD if "immediate progress" on the iEHR was not realized.

In an opinion piece published in Politico this week, former VA chief technology officer Peter Levin says adoption of a joint EHR system should be "affordable, fast and straightforward." He adds that the solution--the Open Source Electronic Health Record Agent (OSEHRA)--has been "staring us in the face."

"With 2,000 members from more than 150 companies, OSEHRA is the key to finally putting VA and the Pentagon on a solid, sustainable and common electronic medical platform," Levin writes.

To learn more:
- here's the Nextgov article
- check out Levin's commentary in Politico