VA Nominee Pledges EHR Advances

At his Senate confirmation hearing, Sloan Gibson, the current president and CEO of the United Service Organizations and President Barack Obama's nominee to be the deputy director of the Department of Veterans Affairs, vowed that if confirmed, he would work with the Department of Defense to make progress towards interoperable electronic health record systems.

The departments' progress towards an interoperable system has been uneven. In 2009, President Obama called on the departments to begin work on a "seamless system of integration" that would allow veterans' medical records to be shared electronically, and in 2011, both departments announced plans for the development of a single, joint EHR system.

However, in February 2013, the plan for a joint system was abandoned in favor of making the current system more interoperable, a decision that drew criticism from lawmakers and veterans' advocates. During a Feb. 27 hearing, House Committee on Veterans' Affairs Ranking Minority Member Michael H. Michaud (D-Maine) said he was "disappointed and disheartened" by the strategy reversal. Jacob B. Gadd, the deputy director for healthcare in the National Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Division at the American Legion, echoed Rep. Michaud's criticism: "Veterans should be able to expect 21st century technological solutions that are forward looking, not a retreat to the legacy of the past where VA and DoD maintain their own separate camps."

Currently, the departments are working on the creation of a single, common EHR to be shared between systems. In October, the VA and the DoD jointly awarded Systems Made Simple a re-compete contract to provide integration and engineering support for the iEHR initiative.

The development of the interoperable format would be a top priority for Mr. Gibson. "I would expect that to be a focal point for a lot of the interaction with DoD and the work on the integrated electronic health record, and I would look forward to wading into that space with vigor," he said, according to a Federal News Radio report.

More Articles on Veterans:

Veterans Day Reflections: 9 Lessons Healthcare Leaders Learned From the Military
MRSA Declines With 5-Year VA Bundle Intervention
Maine Connects VA Facilities to Statewide HIE

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