Lawmakers say DoD-VA EHR governance is evolving too slowly

As the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs continue to develop a joint governance strategy to implement a shared electronic health record system, members of Congress are growing impatient with the lack of progress.

John Windom, executive director of the VA’s Office of EHR Modernization, told a House subcommittee on Wednesday that the two agencies are establishing the Federal Electronic Health Record Modernization (FEHRM) program office that will be responsible for “effectively adjudicating functional, technical and programmatic decisions” to support an integrated EHR solution.

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Lauren Thompson, director of the DoD-VA Interagency Program Office, described FEHRM as a “single point of authority” and a “centralized structure for interagency decisions related to EHR modernization (to) ensure the single, seamlessly integrated EHR is implemented with minimal risks to cost, performance and schedule.”

However, lawmakers are concerned that the creation of FEHRM is taking too long and that the organization is not at a point in its development where it can operate effectively.

“We are at a moment in time when critical decisions must be made in order to advance the implementation,” said Susie Lee (D-Nev.), chair of the House Veterans’ Affairs subcommittee on technology modernization. “But we’re doing so without a fully functioning joint governance structure.”

Also See: DoD-VA EHR interoperability efforts lack single point of accountability

Lee noted that the VA’s first go-live for its initial Cerner EHR rollout is slated for March 2020. “Based on the timeline for implementation, it appears that it will come too late (for the FEHRM) to address the critical decisions that must be made now.”

Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), ranking member of the subcommittee on technology modernization, said that “no one wanted the FEHRM to be stood up this late” and that time is slipping away for the joint program office to positively impact the go-live date for the VA initial operating capability sites—which is just 10 months away.

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