Veterans Affairs: We want the DOD to pick us for its new EHR

Jennifer Bresnick | EHR Intelligence | March 14, 2014

The VA hasn’t given up hope that the DOD will pick its next-generation VistA Evolution EHR as its new system, potentially easing the way towards the goal of true patient data interoperability between the two departments.  After many delays, changes of direction, and Congressional scoldings, the departments have only made staggered progress towards seamless data exchange as each pursues a separate path.  The VA will be adding its competitive bid to a host of commercial offerings, said VA Secretary Eric Shinseki during a hearing this week, to give the DOD more options as it selects a new EHR system to replace the aging AHLTA suite.

This isn’t the first time the VA has suggested that VistA is the best fit for both departments.  In March of last year, just after the joint EHR project collapsed, the VA anticipated the territorial scuffling that has kept the project off-track for so long. “The organization strongly believes VistA is the tool DOD can use to their best benefit. But they have to embrace that on their own. If you force-feed it, it will never happen,” the VA’s Acting Assistant Secretary for Information and Technology Stephen Warren said. “We believe they’ll come to that conclusion, but we have to give them that opportunity.”

As the DOD considers commercial offerings during an extensive proposal period, the VA is moving ahead with plans to upgrade the VistA system to meet modern expectations.  However, much of the funding for the project is firmly trapped under the Congressional thumb as lawmakers continue to wait for a detailed interoperability roadmap from both departments.   The VA is not allowed to spend more than 25% of the $251 million it requested to fund the project until the plan is presented to Congress and approved...