Health IT requires more federal innovation faster, DoD official says

Federal agencies must pick up the pace of healthcare IT to respond to a rapidly evolving landscape, Dave Wennergren, assistant deputy chief management officer at the Department of Defense, told federal leaders this week at the "Digital Innovation in Healthcare" forum in McLean, Va.

While he cited innovation taking place in data security, mobility and sharing, he said the years-long process of putting big projects together takes too long to respond quickly to changing conditions, reports Federal Computer Week.

The DoD knows about lengthy projects. Its integrated electronic health record system, being developed jointly with the Department of Veterans Affairs, is due to be implemented in 2017, but has become bogged down in conflicting IT systems and business practices, according to a report from the Government Accountability Office.

The GAO, in a separate recent report, cited the DoD and VA among five agencies that have failed to adequately assess whether billions of dollars invested in major IT projects will keep those projects on track to meet agency needs.

Wennergren lauded the VA's Blue Button program as an example of intelligent innovation for what he called a "common data model" that allows easy expansion by enabling allows different healthcare entities to speak the same language and for its clearly understood architecture. The VA put out a call for standards and specifications to expand automate and expand the Blue Button program.

Panelist Vish Sankaran, former director of the Federal Health Architecture program in the Office of National Coordinator for Health IT, said the proliferation of electronic records brings added stress to federal agencies.

Sankaran stressed the need for shared solutions and consolidation of various IT management solutions, not only to combat fraud and waste but to improve departmental analytics, which will grow more important with increased information exchange, payment and care-model transformations and Medicaid expansion.

Another panelist, Andrew Regenscheid, lead for hardware-rooted security in the Computer Security Division at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, pointed to identity-management issues with mobile devices, as well as the likelihood that they're full of bugs or vulnerability--or lack any data protection at all. Mobile security, in the future, would allow policies to be set on specific mobile applications, giving the user full control of the information the app can access.  

To learn more:
- read the Federal Computer Week article