Although the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs have committed to achieving interoperability between their separate electronic health record systems, they have missed important deadlines and haven’t established metrics for measuring progress toward interoperable EHRs.

That is one of the findings of a new audit from the Government Accountability Office. For instance, DoD and VA missed an October 1, 2014, deadline established by Congress in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2014to certify that all healthcare data in their systems complied with national standards and were computable in real time.

Making matters worse, auditors say a number of key activities in the departments’ system modernization plans will be implemented beyond December 31, 2016—the deadline established in the NDAA for DoD and VA to deploy modernized EHR software to support clinicians while ensuring full standards-based interoperability.

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“These plans—if implemented as currently described—indicate that deployment of the new systems with interoperability capabilities will not be completed across the departments until after 2018, which is beyond the statutory deadline,” warns the report.

While a DoD-VA Interagency Program Office (IPO) has been tasked with facilitating efforts to identify interoperability standards and coordinating activities to increase the sharing of health information, GAO reveals that the IPO has not yet specified outcome-oriented metrics and established related goals. Nor has the office identified a time frame for when it plans to incorporate these metrics and goals into its guidance.

“Without ensuring that outcome-oriented metrics and related goals are defined and incorporated into the current approach, the departments and the IPO will not be positioned to assess and report on the status of interoperability-related activities and determine areas that need improvement,” concludes the report.

GAO recommended that DoD and VA—working with the IPO—establish a time frame for identifying outcome-oriented metrics, define related goals to provide a basis for assessing and reporting on the status of interoperability, and update IPO guidance to reflect the metrics and goals identified. Both departments concurred with GAO’s recommendations.

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