DoD-VA interoperability plans lack key information

Reports sent to Congress on plans made by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense for an interoperable electronic health record system fully satisfied only one of six statutory conditions placed on the project, according to new findings published by the Government Accountability Office.

The U.S. House made the GAO audit part of the conditions on funding the project, with not more than 25 percent of funds for 2013 to be released until the statutory conditions were met.

The GAO was satisfied with the two departments' memorandum agreement that outlined cost-sharing provisions and principles for the project. However, other requirements were only partially satisfied, including:

  • Defining the budget and cost baseline for the development of the iEHR program for each department through 2018; GAO said the estimates submitted did not reflect the change in direction after the two agencies ditched their plan for a joint system in early 2013
  • Identification of the deployment timeline for the system
  • Establishment of data standardization schedules

After the two agencies went their separate ways, their expenditure plan did not provide an accurate view of the cost of the work to be done, nor offer significant insight into the path forward, the report noted.

To that end, GAO is recommending that any future expenditure plans include verifiable spending plans by department, as well as an integrated master schedule, a data standardization schedule and more.

The VA has just awarded a $162 million contract to update its VistA EHR system, and big-name contractors and commercial EHR vendors are teaming up to bid on a Defense contract estimated to be worth approximately $11 billion over its lifecycle for an integrated EHR system.

Lawmakers continue to berate the two agencies for the failed joint project, however, and are keeping the purse strings under tight control until they see progress toward interoperability.

To learn more:
- read the report (.pdf)