A Department of Veterans Affairs fiscal 2016 appropriations bill that passed the Senate last week, H.R. 2029, included language that addresses the VA’s electronic health record (EHR) system and the progress the agency is making towards interoperability.
As previously reported in a Washington Debrief in Healthcare Infomatics, Congressional leaders are examining efforts by the Department of Defense (DOD) and VA to develop separate electronic health record (EHR) systems to serve active duty and retired military personnel and whether the two systems can be interoperable. Many lawmakers have voiced frustration that the agencies stopped working on a single, joint EHR back in 2013 after spending more than four years and $500 million on the project.
As reported by Politico, the congressional committee is investigating whether the VA should continue with its Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture (VistA) EHR or replace it with a commercial off-the-shelf EHR.
Within H.R. 2029, lawmakers propose that the VA cannot spend more than 25 percent of its funding on IT issues until the Secretary of Veterans Affairs submits to Congress a report outlining a number of updates, such as the status of and changes to the VistA Evolution program, the program’s cost, progress in meeting project milestones and issues related to interoperability.
Specifically, the bill states that the report presented to Congress should include “the definition being used for interoperability between the electronic health record system of the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs, the metrics to measure the extent of interoperability, the milestones and timeline associated with achieving interoperability, and the baseline measurements associated with interoperability; progress toward developing and implementing all components and levels of interoperability, including semantic interoperability.”