By 2017, the Veterans Affairs and Defense departments plan to share electronic health records while modernizing their own respective EHR systems. In its fiscal year 2015 budget, the VA has requested $269 million to modernize its VistA EHR system and to integrate health data with DoD.

“In the near-term, we are working to create seamless integration of DoD, VA, and private provider health data,” VA Secretary Eric Shinseki testified last week before the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “In the mid-term, we are working to modernize the software supporting DoD and VA clinicians. Together, these two goals will help to create an environment in which clinicians and patients from both Departments are able to share current and future healthcare information for continuity of care and improved treatment.”

Last year, VA and DoD scrapped a joint effort to develop a single system called iEHR--integrated electronic health record system. Instead, the two departments are now pursuing their own respective systems and are focusing on integrating VA and DoD health data later this decade.

“The DoD has its own electronic health record, just as we do,” said the VA’s Shinseki. “They do not [currently] interface in the way that we think is the future. But, we have created a joint viewer developed by our people that will reach into the DoD database, reach into ours, and pull up a single screen where a clinician--either at DoD or VA--can care for patients.”

The VA Secretary told senators that DoD is currently in the acquisition process for development of a new military EHR system. At a separate hearing last week held by the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Shinseki informed lawmakers that the VA intends to bid for DoD’s EHR procurement and that his work over the next two years is to get the VA “as competitive as anybody else” in the commercial space. He testified that when Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is “ready to make a decision on the DoD electronic health record we want to be in the competition.”

The VA’s VistA EHR has been in operation since 1997, according to Shinseki, and the system has steadily evolved over the years into additional capabilities. “We’re comfortable with it and we’re going to pursue raising VistA from a Level 2 electronic health record to Level 4, which would put it at the top of the competitors,” he said. “Our code is government owned, government operated and we’re comfortable with it. We think we’re going to be competitive.”

 

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