Integrated VA-DoD Health Record at Least Five Years Away

Tom Philpott | | July 27, 2012

House committees on armed services and veterans affairs held a joint hearing Wednesday to review details of President Obama’s plan to improve the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) for separating and retiring military members, with a kind of five-to-seven-day “reverse boot camp” available by late 2013 to smooth transition to civilian life and employment.

But lawmakers were more interested in asking their witnesses — the secretaries of defense and of veteran affairs — for progress on some older initiatives that so far have fallen short of helping veterans. One such initiative is the integration of separate VA and Department of Defense electronic health record systems, a key component to achieving Obama’s promise of a Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record (VLER) that would capture full health care histories on individuals — including private sector care.

Committee members said they were disappointed to learn that full integration of the VA and DoD health record systems won’t occur until 2017. And Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and VA Secretary Eric Shinseki didn’t sound confident about meeting that deadline. “This is not easy,” Panetta said. “So the way we’re approaching it is to try to see if we can complete this process at two places, San Antonio, Texas, and Hampton Roads, Va., and then try to expand it to every other (VA and DoD) hospital. It’s tough. But if we can achieve this, it would be a very significant achievement that I think could be a model not only for hospitals that we run but for hospitals in the private sector as well.”...