VA CIO clarifies plans for iEHR

In the wake of criticism following news last week that the Departments of Veterans and Defense will abandon plans to build a joint electronic health record system from the ground up, VA CIO Roger Baker is clarifying that the two departments still plan to create a joint record.

"Rumors of [the integrated EHR's] demise have been greatly exaggerated," Baker told Government Health IT in an email. "We remain committed to the common data, application and GUI standards we committed to at the start of the program."

FierceEMR reported last week about the decision to cancel plans to create a joint iEHR from scratch, noting, as Baker said, that the VA and DoD will move forward with development of an iEHR using existing solutions.

Several lawmakers were upset with the decision, including the chairmen and ranking members of the Senate and House veterans' committees. In a statement released after the announcement, Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said that he was disappointed that the VA and DoD would "back away from a commitment to develop and implement a truly integrated" system.

House Committee on Veterans' Affairs Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) called the decision "deeply troubling," saying that prior use of "disparate computer systems" to create universal EHRs has failed. "When DoD and VA take shortcuts, the veterans and service members under their care will be shortchanged," Miller said.

As we reported last week, under the new plan, all VA and DoD patients will download their medical records by May via the Blue Button Initiative. This summer, the departments will launch pilot programs on the common interface at seven joint rehabilitation centers nationwide, initially, and eventually to nine sites, overall; all of the facilities will be interoperable by the end of July.

By September, the departments will have a shared authoritative source, and by December, healthcare data will be standardized, meaning VA and DoD will be able to exchange such data in real time. The ultimate goal is to enable initial operating capability in 2014.

To learn more:
- read the Government Health IT article
- read the statements of the congressmen
- here's the FierceEMR article