Federal Health IT Investments Criticized in GAO Report, Testimony

June 12, 2015 in News

On Wednesday, the Government Accountability Office released a report calling for “urgent action” on federal IT projects, including those for HHS and the Department of Veteran Affairs, Healthcare IT News reports.

Report Details

Overall, the report noted the federal government spends $80 billion annually on IT (Monegain, Healthcare IT News, 6/12).

Among other things, the report highlighted issues with several health care-related projects, including:

  • Development of a new VA appointment scheduling system;
  • Electronic health record system interoperability between VA and the Department of Defense; and
  • HealthCare.gov, which has experienced well-documented, “significant cost increases, schedule slips and delayed functionality” (Bowman, FierceHealthIT, 6/11).

According to the report, “These and other failed IT projects often suffered from a lack of disciplined and effective management, such as project planning, requirements definition, and program oversight and governance” (Versel, MedCity News, 6/11).

For example, the report noted, “DOD’s and VA’s initiatives to modernize their [EHR] systems are intended to address sharing data among the departments’ health information systems, but achieving this has been a challenge for these agencies over the last 15 years.” It added, “The departments’ change and history of challenges in improving their health information systems heighten concern about whether they will be successful” (Healthcare IT News, 6/12).

GAO Official Testifies on Report

Meanwhile, David Powner, director of IT management issues at GAO and author of the report, on Wednesday testified before the House subcommittees on Government Operations and Information Technology that health IT-related investments by HHS, VA and DOD often are wasteful and fail to meet expectations (FierceHealthIT, 6/11).

Powner said that as of January, the federal government had fully implemented just 23% of the 737 oversight and IT project management recommendations GAO had made to the Office of Management and Budget and other agencies between October 2009 and December 2014 (Healthcare IT News, 6/12).

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