VA suspends work on key component of joint EHR with DoD

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) issued a stop-work order on a key component of the joint electronic health record that the VA is building with the Department of Defense (DoD), according to the Federal News Radio website. The component is an enterprise service bus (ESB) designed to integrate private-sector applications with the VA-DoD system.

In January, Virginia-based ASM Research was awarded a $102.6 million contract to develop the ESB software model. It's unclear why VA stopped the work or how big a problem the suspension will pose to development of the joint EHR.

Meanwhile, the departments are moving forward with other aspects of the project, the Federal News Radio article said. VA recently announced it was moving its patients' data into centers operated by the Defense Information Systems Agency. The department also asked for a 7 percent increase in its IT operating budget for fiscal 2013.

The VA and DoD last year launched an open-source community to develop key components of the joint EHR. Peter Levin, chief technology officer of the VA, told InformationWeek in August that private companies would be able to design applications that could plug into the enterprise service bus and sell them to the government. But, while VA made all of its VistA source code available to the community, DoD did not announce any plans to supply source code from its AHLTA system to developers.

Meanwhile, the two departments have collaborated on the Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record (VLER), an interim step toward the joint record that builds on previous information-sharing efforts, according to InformationWeek reported. The VA is getting ready to pilot the use of the Nationwide Health Information Network (NwHIN) with the VLER at 11 VA medical centers. The centers will exchange clinical information with military and private healthcare providers via the NwHIN.

In a session on health information exchange at last week's Health Information Management and Systems Society (HIMSS) conference, Tim Cromwell, director of standards and interoperability for the VA, said that the department had reached its goal of signing up 50,000 veterans and was in the production phase of the information exchange project.

To learn more:
- read the Federal News Radio story
- see the InformationWeek article about the VA-DoD open-source community
- check out the InformationWeek story on the VLER information exchange