Failed joint EHR project still drawing heat from House defense panel

Lawmakers continue to berate the Department of Defense for its failure to produce an interoperable electronic health records system with the Department of Veterans Affairs--despite spending more than $1 billion to try and do just that since 2008, reports the Navy Times.

"It's enormously frustrating. It makes us angry... This is way beyond the claims backup VA has. It's pretty damn important," Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee's defense panel, which holds the purse strings to the Pentagon, said at a hearing Thursday, according to the article.

The ranking Democrat at the panel's meeting, Rep. Pete Visclosky (D-Ind.), also expressed his dismay at the hearing.

"We fought a world war in four years. We're talking interoperability of electronic medical records from 2008 to 2017, and I'm appalled," he said, Navy Times reports.

They're not the only ones harshly criticize DoD IT projects. The Defense Health Agency's electronic health record for combat troops--costing 2,233 percent more than originally estimated--topped the list of defense information systems projects gone off track in a recent report from the Government Accountability Office.

The DoD and VA bailed last February from the joint EHR project, with the DoD opting to go with commercially available technology while the VA updates its existing VistA system.

In passing the 2014 Omnibus Appropriations Act in January, however, lawmakers stressed that the two departments must not lose sight of the interoperability goal.

The bill prevents the VA from spending more than 25 percent of the VistA Evolution budget until it explains to Congress how it will adhere to data standards set up for the integrated EHR. The lawmakers also want updates on testing to ensure compatibility with the DoD systems.

Meanwhile, the proposed 2015 budget for the Defense Health Agency would more than triple funding for its work on the integrated EHR from $19.9 million in 2014 to $68.3 million next year.

In January, it issued a solicitation for a contractor to sustain its current systems for as long as another four years, but also solicitized a draft request for proposals for the new EHR system. In February, it issued solicitations for software licenses for its healthcare facilities and for a dental EHR system.

To learn more:
- read the article in the Navy Times

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