VA, DoD owe EHR plan to Congress by end of January

Funding legislation agreed to by the House and Senate this week mandates that the U.S. Departments of Veterans Affairs and Defense present a plan for building either an interoperable or single electronic health record by the end of January.

The bill--the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014--calls on the two agencies to create a "detailed programs plan for the oversight and execution of the interoperable" EHRs by Jan. 31, 2014. What's more, it requires that by Oct. 1, 2014, all healthcare information in both the DoD's AHLTA system and the VA's VistA system "be computable in real time and comply with the existing national data standards and have a process in place to ensure data is standardized as national standards continue to evolve."

In February, DoD and VA nixed plans to build a joint electronic health record system from scratch, citing budget and time constraints; the new system had been scheduled to go live in 2017, with a preliminary rollout scheduled for 2014. By Dec. 31, 2016, the new bill requires that the Interagency Program Office, working with the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT and the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, "deploy modernized electronic health record software supporting clinicians within the two departments."

The EHR must be based on national standards to allow information exchange with private providers, Nextgov reported. In May, the House Appropriations Committee expressed full support for the development of a joint EHR system between the two agencies, even allocating $344 million in 2014 to "jumpstart" development efforts.

A report from the IPO published last month found that the bulk of spending on the joint EHR system went to support service contracts in 2012. In fiscal year 2012, the IPO spent $329.2 million of its $351.9 million budget on support services contracts, including program management support and Agile development, the report states.

To learn more:
- read through the bill (.pdf)
- check out the Nextgov article