House Appropriations Panel Criticizes Slow DOD-VA iEHR Efforts

April 7, 2014 in News

On Thursday, lawmakers on the House Appropriations Committee’s defense panel criticized officials from the Department of Defense for failing to develop a joint electronic health record system with the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Navy Times reports (Kime, Navy Times, 4/3).

Background

In February 2013, DOD and VA officials announced plans to halt a joint integrated EHR, or iEHR system, and instead focus on making their current EHR systems more interoperable.

The iEHR project aimed to allow every service member to maintain a single EHR throughout his or her career and lifetime.

The House and Senate in December 2013 approved a funding bill — the National Defense Authorization Act — that required VA and DOD to develop a plan for an interoperable or single electronic health record system by Jan. 31 (iHealthBeat, 3/17).

Hearing Details

During the hearing, Committee Chair Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) said the situation was “enormously frustrating.” He added, “It makes us angry … It’s pretty damn important.”

Similarly, Rep. Pete Visclosky (D-Ind.) — the panel’s ranking Democrat — said, “We fought a World War in four years. We’re talking interoperability of electronic medical records from 2008 to 2017, and I’m appalled.”

Meanwhile, Jonathan Woodson, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, said that the interoperability effort is similar to making cellphones — which are built by different manufacturers and use different operating systems — “all talk to each other.” He said that DOD, VA and HHS are working on finding a standardized way to share patient data.

He added, “This is a national problem. It’s exactly why we have taken the task of working [on] it with the commercial market” (Navy Times, 4/3).

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