VA, DOD leaders commit to ‘seamlessly integrated electronic health record’

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The heads of the departments of Veterans Affairs and Defense recently signed a letter expressing their joint commitment to “implementing a single, seamlessly integrated electronic health record.”

VA Secretary Robert Wilkie and DOD Secretary Jim Mattis signed the letter Sept. 26, reinforcing “both departments’ commitment to ensuring the successful transition from a legacy patient-data system to a modernized one that will continue to support active-duty service members, Veterans and their families,”  the departments announced Wednesday in a release.

“The joint statement between DOD and VA represents tangible evidence of our commitment to change how we deliver Veteran-focused, provider-friendly care,” Wilkie said in a statement. “The new EHR system will be interoperable with DOD, while also improving VA’s ability to collaborate and share information with community care providers. This will ease the burden on service members as they transition from military careers and will be supported by multiple medical providers throughout their lives.”

The letter explains that VA and DOD “will institute an optimal organizational design that prioritizes accountability and effectiveness, while continuing to advance unity, synergy, and efficiencies between our two Departments.” This includes a new accountability mechanism for decision-making and oversight, an updated implementation timeline, and “optimally coordinated clinical and business workflows, operations, data management, and technology solutions.”

DOD and VA are both developing billion-dollar modernized electronic health records built by Cerner Corp. The VA decided last year to follow in DOD’s footsteps adopting Cerner as its EHR provider for optimal interoperability with the Pentagon’s MHS GENESIS system.

The House Committee on Veterans Affairs’ Subcommittee on Technology Modernization recently held a hearing on accountability of interoperability between the two EHRs. Lawmakers expressed uncertainty in the DOD/VA Interagency Program Office’s ability to ensure interoperability because it lacked any real decision-making authority.

The new letter from Mattis and Wilkie suggests something will be done about that.

“We are committed to partnering with the VA to support the lifetime care of our service members, Veterans and their families,” Mattis said. “This modern electronic health record will ensure those who serve our nation have quality health care as they transition from service member to Veteran.”

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Cerner, Department of Defense (DOD), Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), electronic health records (EHRs), interoperability, Jim Mattis, MHS GENESIS, Robert Wilkie