DOD reaches interoperability milestone with VA

The Department of Defense has achieved its EHR interoperability requirement as outlined in the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2014. The NDAA required the EHR systems of the DOD and the Department of Veterans Affairs to be interoperable. Frank Kendall, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, notified the Committee on Appropriations of the achievement via letter.

The agencies achieved interoperability through the Joint Legacy Viewer, a web-based, integrated system that combines a patient's record into one file. Previously, the two agencies operated on different electronic information systems — the DOD uses commercial EHRs, and the VA uses the in-house VistA system.

The DOD and the VA were working on a joint electronic information systems a couple years ago and in 2013 had plans to develop a single integrated EHR system. However, they dropped the project, citing cost effectiveness concerns.

According to Federal News Radio, the agencies have been using a "hodgepodge" of ad hoc tools to view patient data in each other's systems, but now the JLV will serve as a single application for reading data across departments.

However, the report indicates the JLV is not the end-all to reach interoperability; rather, it's just the web-based tool the DOD and the VA are using right now to access each other's systems. The agencies will have to continue working and developing software tools, especially once the DOD deploys its commercial-based system being developed by the Leidos, Cerner and Accenture team.

"We've done a lot to get this information to a point where it's both shared and it's usable, but we recognize that we're going to continue to have to do more things to actually make it as useful as possible," said Chris Miller, program executive officer for Defense Healthcare Management Systems.

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