GAO Says Defense, VA Shouldn’t Have Separate EMRs

Posted on March 12, 2014 I Written By

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

The GAO isn’t satisfied with plans the departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs has submitted claiming that separate EMRs will be more affordable and quicker than their original joint plans.

The two agencies had claimed that implementing separate, interoperable EMR systems would be a better choice than developing a joint EMR usable by both agencies.  But the GAO says the two have not substantiated their claims that the separate EMRs would save money and time.

The GAO report comes after years of wrangling over how to create a joint, integrated EHR. The two agencies have been discussing creating the joint project, the iEHR, since 2009. The idea behind the iEHR was to allow every service member to maintain a single EHR throughout their career and lifetime.

However, the iEHR project came to a screeching halt in February 2013, when the two agencies announced plans to stop the project and focus instead on making their existing EHR systems more interoperable.

In follow-up, the House and Senate in December 2013 approved the funding bill that required to VA and DOD to create a plan for a single or interoperable electronic health record by January 31.

Since then the GAO has addressed the plans the two agencies made, and concluded that they have not:

  • Addressed management barriers to collaboration terms of enterprise architecture, IT investment management and other areas
  • Laid out what the interoperable EHR approach consists of, how much it will cost, or when and how it will be completed
  • Developed a joint healthcare architecture or investment management collaboration to guide the project
  • Updated their strategic plan to commit to an integrated approach

In the GAO’s view, the fact that the VA and DOD are taking separate approaches — the VA modernizing its system and the DOD acquiring a new commercially available system — is not going to work out well.