DOD, VA Fall Short on EHR Interoperability Requirements, GAO Says

July 10, 2014 in News

The departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs failed to fully satisfy all but one of six statutory conditions placed on their efforts to develop interoperable electronic health record systems, InformationWeek reports (Welsh, InformationWeek, 7/9).

Background

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

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, 5/1).

GAO Report Details

For the report, GAO sought to determine whether the VA and DOD plan submitted to Congress on July 23, 2013, met House conditions that stated no more than 25% of funds for fiscal year 2013 would be released until certain statutory standards were met.

GAO conducted the report between October 2013 and July 2014 (GAO report, 7/8).

Report Findings

GAO determined that DOD and VA failed to fully satisfy most of the requirements, including:

  • Defining a budget and costs for each EHR program through 2018 (Hall, FierceHealthIT, 7/9);
  • Establishing a schedule for achieving data standardization;
  • Explaining how each department would comply with acquisition rules (InformationWeek, 7/9);
  • Identifying a timeline for rolling out the system (FierceHealthIT, 7/9); and
  • Justifying their EHR spending estimates.

However, the report found that DOD and VA fully satisfied the requirement to outline cost-sharing business rules for the project via a memorandum agreement.

Recommendations

GAO said the proposed plan currently does “not provide a meaningful representation of the EHR approach as it has evolved over the last year.” It recommended that the agencies create a plan that includes:

  • A deployment timeline coordinated with an integrated master schedule, a data standardization schedule and details for complying with federal acquisition rules; and
  • Steps to ensure new expenditure plans for the projects contain verifiable and accurate budget, cost and spending estimates (InformationWeek, 7/9).
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