A History of Health Information Technology in the VA: 1955-2005

"A History of Health Information Technology in the VA" covers the major activities and accomplishments of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in developing and deploying health information technologies (IT) from 1955 though 2010. 

The history starts with Electronic Accounting Machines (EAM), punch card, and the acquisition of the first computer system for the VA in the 1950s.  It works its way through the 1960's, a decade of characterized by the use of large mainframe computer systems, COBOL and FORTRAN programming languages, and the automation of corporate financial and logistic business functions.

The 1970's saw the automation of many of the veterans' benefits systems (e.g. C&P, Insurance, Education) and the introduction of database management systems, distributed processing, and the first generation of interactive workstations. During the 1980's, the VA was focused primarily on the automation of its health care systems using minicomputer systems and the 'M' programming language, i.e. VistA System [Originally known as DHCP.] 

The 1990's were characterized by the widespread deployment of client server technologies – PC workstations, file servers, and LANs. It was also a time of integration – nationwide integration of computer systems across VA facilities using a wide area network (WAN); data integration across administrations using software packages such as AMIE and HINQ; functional integration across applications using tools such as the Computerized Patient Record System (CPRS) and VetsNet.

While the focus of this history is on healthcare information systems, the author also included selected information on other VA non-healthcare information technology events and systems. This helps to relate events to the many other major activities occurring across the VA that directly or indirectly impact the healthcare program.

The VA has a documented history of continuously seeking to improve business processes and provide more efficient, effective and high quality service to the nation's veterans using emerging information technologies and solutions. This tradition has continued as the VA entered the 21st century. The first decade of the new century has been characterized by a strong focus on bringing information technology directly to bear on the veterans, their families, and other key stakeholders.

The VA has continued to take major steps forward with its My HealtheVet project, putting the VA online for veterans via voice, data, and video communications, 7 days a week, 24 hours a day.  The VA has also collaborated with other federal agencies, state governments, non-government organizations (NGO), and the private sector on 'open' health information standards, open health IT architecture, open source solutions, the creation of the National Health Information Network (NHIN), and the development of other emerging health IT solutions.

View or download a complete copy of  "A History of Health Information Technology in the VA: 1955-2005".  Also, check out the related YouTube video presentations by Peter Groen.

Compiled and written by Peter Groen. He worked for the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) within the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for over 30 years. During his federal career, he occupied a number of senior Information Technology (IT) management positions within VA Headquarters and in the field.