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VA, DOD Nix Plan for Joint EHR, Concentrate on Interoperability

February 8, 2013
by Rajiv Leventhal
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Citing a lack of time and a need to cut costs, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Eric Shinseki announced they would forgo plans to build a new health records system to be used jointly by the departments and instead pursue less expensive technologies to make their individual systems more interoperable.

Initially, the Department of Defense (DOD) and VA expected to fully implement the iEHR system by 2017. But, over the last few months, Panetta said in the announcement, “[we] recognized that our worry is, 'How long is it going to take to get to that goal?' And 'What is going to be the price tag to get to that goal?'  And 'How many times is it going to be delayed?'"

Instead, the new approach will aim to make a series of important changes to simplify this program, cut costs, and to get veterans the key benefits of this new system much sooner, Panetta said. “Rather than building a single integrated system from scratch, we will focus our immediate efforts on integrating VA and DOD health data as quickly as possible, by focusing on interoperability and using existing solutions.”

According to Panetta and Shinseki, the outlined plan includes:

  • Standardizing healthcare data no later than December 2013
  • Creating health data authoritative source no later than September of 2013
  • Accelerating the exchange of real-time data between VA and DOD no later than December of 2013
  • Allowing VA and DOD patients to download their medical records, (the Blue Button Initiative), no later than May of 2013
  • Upgrading the graphical user interface to display the new standardized VA and DOD healthcare data no later than December of 2013, with focus on an initial operating capability in 2014.


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