Lack of VA, DOD interoperability is due to poor management, not technology, Congress says

At a joint hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs on Tuesday, Congressional leaders suggested the struggle to achieve interoperability between the Department of Veterans' Affairs and the Department of Defense has less to do with available technology than management and leadership efforts.

Rep. William Hurd (R-Texas), chairman of the subcommittee on information technology, said, "At its core, this is not a problem of technology. This is an issue of management."

The two federal agencies have attempted to work together in the past to address the issue of interoperability. In 2013, the DOD and the VA had plans to develop a single integrated EHR system, but called off the project citing cost effectiveness concerns, according to Health Data Management.

The recent DOD contract aimed at modernizing the military health record system further separates the two agencies from data integration, according to the report. While the DOD awarded the contract to a team led by Leidos and Cerner to overhaul the military record system, the VA still uses its homegrown Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture (VistA) EHR.

"The current plan for DOD and the VA to modernize their healthcare IT infrastructure in order to achieve full interoperability lacks metrics and goals," Rep. Hurd said. "These are not issues of data standardization. This is management 101."

However, representatives from the DOD and the VA said the agencies are constantly sharing and exchanging data. Christopher Miller, program executive or the DOD's Defense Healthcare Management Systems, said the two agencies share more data than any other two health systems. "DOD and VA clinicians are currently able to use their existing software applications to view records of more than 7.4 million shared patients who have received care from both departments," Mr. Miller said. "This data is available today in near real-time and the number of records viewable by both departments continues to increase."

To view the full hearing, click here.

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