VA, Defense ditch plans for common EHR

Joe Conn | Modern Healthcare | February 6, 2013

The long march to interoperability between the electronic health-records systems of the Veterans Affairs Department and the Department of Defense passed yet another milestone Tuesday as the secretaries of both announced they were scrapping a 5-year-old plan to achieve exchange capabilities by creating a single, common EHR for both healthcare systems.

“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,” VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said in a statement at a news conference (PDF) with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. “This approach is affordable, it's achievable, and if we refocus our efforts, we believe we can achieve the key goal of a seamless system for health records between VA and DOD on a greatly accelerated schedule. We're now directing our departments to do just that.”

The news was welcomed by members of the open-source software communities that have grown up around the VA's VistA EHR. Formal, concerted efforts by the VA and the DOD to swap patient records go back at least to 1998, but have achieved only sputtering success and meanwhile earned a decade of criticism from Congress and the watchdog General Accountability Office...Dr. Nancy Anthracite, president and chief medical officer of WorldVista, a not-for-profit organization formed in 2002 to promote the use of an open source version of VistA outside the VA, expressed no regret at the demise of the joint development effort...


VA Remains Committed to VistA and Open Source

For quite some time now, the VA and DoD have been exchanging patient data through their FHIE/BHIE solution. I believe the name has changed several times and it may go under the label of VLER now. The VA continues to be committed to VistA for their EHR and the open source approach espoused by the OSEHRA initiative. I always find it hard to unduly over react to news items about VA and DoD that claim there is some sweeping multi-billion dollar single EHR solution that is going to emerge. Ain't going to happen! Each department will have its own EHR solution and a health information exchange (by some name) will provide the needed linkage between the two departments. [Sorry for all the government acronyms.]